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Author of "The Devil's Derelicts," etc. 

Daily Telegraph says: 

"As mere pictures of prison life these powerful 
and effectively-written tales by Mr. F. C. Vernon 
Harcourt are positively fascinating in their realism. 
They are far more interesting, far more vivid and 
attractive, than nineteen-twentieths of the average 
detective and criminal stories which have come into 
fashion in the past twenty years, and constitute now 
so large a portion of the current literary output. . . 
There is, moreover, a purpose in each one of these 
masterly tales, a purpose with which every thought- 
ful and thinking man cannot but sympathise. ' It 
is scarcely an exaggeration/ says Mr. Vernon Har- 
court, ' to assert that every prison throughout the 
length and breadth of this Christian land is a stand- 
ing monumnent to the non-success of all past and 
present systems of criminal administration.' And 
with every word of this and his admirable introduc- 
tion we cordially agree. . . There is no type of 
offender, no form or. aspect of prison life, which Mr. 
Vernon Harcourt has not studied and turned to ac- 
count in his vivid and fascinating volume. We 
commend it, with its powerful introduction, to every 
reader who admires realism in fiction, and can appre- 
ciate fiction based upon reality. No better pictures 
of prison life have ever been written in this country, 
and the evils of the present penal system were never 
more graphically and interestingly laid bare." 

London : DIGBY, LONG & CO., 16, Bouverie St., Fleet St., B.C. 



OF A ^ /;, ; (> i;!'^ :.', 






Digby, Long & Co. 

1 6, Bouverie Street, Fleet Street, E.G. 

First published in 1921 

Contents ' ;;> -.'i'-' V 






(TO END OF 1914) 20 






Loos 54 




XII. YPRES, 1916 82 













MAUBEUGE ... ... ... ... ... 217 




Reminiscences 6i a Grenadier 



EVERYONE knows how the War started; if 
they don't, it is through their own idleness, 
as books on the subject are legion; I do not 
propose, therefore, to do more than tell 
how it started for me and for many more 
harmless civilians at that time employed 
in peaceful occupations. 

The London Season had just come to its 
allotted end, a season perhaps more mag- 
nificent than any of its forerunners. Every- 
one had given themselves up to amuse- 
ment; this, indeed, seemed to be the sole 
object of existence. Whether people had 
any foreboding of the misery that was to 
descend on the world I know not, but I 
remember often feeling that something 
vague was going to happen, and that the 
season of 1914 was going to be the last of 
its kind. 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Well, as the last 1 joined schoolboy knows, 
the War for us started on August 4th, we 
being forced to declare war on Germany, 
it taking effect from midnight of that date. 

I shall not easily forget the scene outside 
Buckingham Palace that night; the Palace 
was surrounded by cheering, enthusiastic 
crowds, all shouting themselves hoarse 
and singing patriotic songs in fact, doing 
all the things the phlegmatic Englishman 
is supposed never to do. 

Next day I went to the City as usual, but 
was put to work on the new Government 
War Risks scheme, the insuring of ships at 
more reasonable rates than the insurance 
companies were able to give. That day and 
the next I spent answering questions for 
shippers and ship-owners of all nationali- 
ties, and precious boring it was too ! 

Whether it was boredom or patriotism 
which drove me into the Army I don't 
know, but next day, the 7th, I set off on a 
tour of the Territorial Regiments in Lon- 
don to try and get someone to take me in. 
The Inns of Court wouldn't look at anyone 
who hadn't previously been a soldier of 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

some sort; I hadn't. So I went further up 
the street to the H.A.C., and found a crowd 
waiting outside the gate on a similar mis- 
sion; but I was fortunately with a friend, 
Elwes, who was a nephew of the Colonel 
of the Regiment, Lord Denbigh, so after he 
had convinced the sentries of this fact 
and nothing would make them believe it at 
first we were admitted to the Orderly 
Room, and filled up various forms, and 
then were told to return next day, as the 
Regiment was full up and awaiting War 
Office sanction to form two new companies. 
In the light of future events it is hard to 
realise how difficult it was to get into the 
Army in those days, even as a private 

Next day, the 8th, we were duly elected 
members of the H.A.C., and paid our sub- 
scription of two guineas, for this was no 
ordinary regiment, but more like a soldier- 
ing club, where candidates had to be pro- 
posed and seconded by members. 

I will not weary any possible readers 
of this book with much description of 
our training at home. We started drill 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

next day. Personally, for many days I 
could do nothing right, and was always 
finding myself wandering aimlessly about 
the squad quite lost; arm drill defeated me 
entirely; but in course of time we got into 

After a time, with things going badly in 
France and the German advance becoming 
daily more dangerous, the question arose 
as to whether Territorial Regiments should 
be sent to the Front, they being formed for 
Home Service only. The law was that no 
Territorial Regiment could be sent abroad 
unless it volunteered, or, in other words, 
if a certain proportion of the men did so. 

So we were asked to volunteer, and at 
first the response was disappointing, and it 
did not reach the required number. Next 
day Lord Denbigh addressed the Battalion 
most eloquently, and put the case so well 
that 89 per cent., if I remember correctly, 

As a result of this, we were ordered to 
hurry on our training with a view to pro- 
ceeding to France at an early date. It was 
not thought that we could possibly be fit to 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

go in under three or four months. 

I was all this time in No. 2 Company, 
which was commanded by Captain Charles 
Whyte, than whom no one could have been 
kinder to the young and struggling soldier. 

On the 12th September the Battalion, 
under the command of Lieut. -Col. Treffry, 
was reviewed by the King preparatory to 
leaving for camp in Essex. 

I had been on guard the night before, and 
had somehow omitted to find time to shave, 
so appeared on parade with a flowing 
beard, and was put gently but firmly into 
the rear rank ! 

After the inspection we marched through 
the City with fixed bayonets, thus exercis- 
ing our ancient privilege, shared at that 
time with the 3rd Battalion Grenadier 
Guards, one battalion of Buffs, and by no 
one else. Whether we young soldiers, who 
found it difficult enough to carry a rifle 
without a bayonet on it, looked on the 
thing as a privilege or merely an additional 
burden, can be left to the imagination; 
however, we learnt later the value of old 
privileges and customs, together with that 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

wonderful thing " esprit de corps." 

Our camp was in the park of Belhus 
Park, near Raynham, in Essex. We had 
a good many difficulties to contend with on 
arrival, the worst being a temporary short- 
age of food. We indulged in yet another 
of the private soldier's privileges, that of 
grousing, and loudly and longly we did it ! 
But it did us no harm, and we soon set- 
tled down to the life happily enough. 

We were not destined to make a long stay 
there, however, as on September 16th we 
got our orders to sail for France on the 18th. 
We were 1,000 strong, and we were ordered 
to send 800 men out, the remainder to fol- 
low as a first reinforcement as occasion de- 
manded. We were all dead keen to go out, 
and it was whispered that the 800 best 
trained soldiers would go, so I, knowing 
full well that I was one of the worst, if not 
actually the worst, spent a miserable day 
on the 17th, waiting for the announcement 
to be made as to who was going. Several 
times I waylaid the Company Commander 
and implored him not to leave me behind, 
but I didn't feel my chances were very 



Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

However, that evening I was called in 
and told that the company had been made 
up to strength without my valuable ser- 
vices, but that if I liked to take on the job 
of officer's servant and groom to the M.G. 
officer, I could go to France. Well, this 
was what the Yanks would call a bit of a 
" proposition." I didn't know one end of 
a horse from the other, and, except for fag- 
ging when a lower boy at Eton, had no ex- 
perience in the servant line. 

Anyhow, I decided to take the job, and 
reported, full of fear and trembling, to my 
new lord and master, Lieut. Halliday, of 
the M.G. section. Later in the evening I 
was introduced to my horse, a long-legged 
chestnut with, mercifully, a reputation for 

Next morning, the 18th, we left camp 
about 2 a.m. en route for Southampton, 
sailing about 4p.m. At that time the Ger- 
mans were getting on so fast that Havre 
was considered unsafe as a base, so we had 
to go all the way to St. Nazaire, at the 
mouth of the Loire, a sea journey of forty- 
eight hours. 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Over that journey I would sooner draw a 
veil; suffice it to say that, whereas others 
remarked on the extraordinary calmness of 
the sea, I, after sleeping the first night in a 
pool of water on deck, spent the next 
twenty-four hours with my head well over 
the side, until rescued by the Medical Offi- 
cer, a charming Irishman whose name I 
have forgotten, and taken below and re- 
stored to animation. 

We arrived at St. Nazaire about 4.30 on 
the 20th, and had a wonderful reception 
from the inhabitants, the ship being pelted 
with fruit of all calibres. 

We spent that night at a Rest Camp, so 
named, I suppose, from the fact that the 
crowd in the tents rendered any form of 
resting quite impossible! However, we 
had arrived in France, and we already be- 
gan to think we were no end of heroes, and 
wrote home to our families to tell them so ! 



WE stayed at St. Nazaire till the 23rd. St. 
Nazaire itself is rather a pleasant place, 
and the country round is pretty, but nei- 
ther of these epithets apply in any degree 
to that Rest Camp in September, 1914. 

The Camp was full to breaking point 
men from every conceivable regiment, all 
regular soldiers who had been washed back 
from the war on one pretext or another; WE 
were so crowded that we had seventeen 
men sleeping in one ordinary bell tent; the 
days were boiling hot, and the nights 
bitterly cold. 

I doubt if at any time during the war I 
was quite so miserable as at St. Nazaire. 
I had been taken away from my original 
platoon to do this servant job. and was thus 
separated from my friends, and doing work 
I didn't understand. The camp was filthy, 
and it seemed to be nobody's job to clean it; 
so altogether no one was sorry to move on. 

At this point the Battalion was split up, 
Numbers 1 and 2 Companies and the M.G. 
Section, which I was with, went on to Le 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Mans to guard points of importance, the 
other two companies going to Nantes on 
similar work. 

During all this time I was showing no 
skill whatever either as a groom or a ser- 
vant; my horse showed a distressing lack 
of discipline, and my master's boots were 
never clean nor his shaving water hot. 
Consequently one day at Le Mans 5 the 
boots being even dirtier than usual and the 
shaving water even more gelid, my master, 
to whose patience up to now I pay a gener- 
ous tribute, rose in his wrath and rebuked 
me; whereupon I applied, somewhat insub- 
ordinately I fear, to return to my old sec- 
tion in Number 2 Company. This was 
duly arranged, and everyone was very nice 
about it. I got back to my former friends, 
two of whom, Corkran and Elwes, I had 
known well before the war, and with this 
section I remained for the rest of my time 
with the Regiment. 

It cannot be said that our stay at Le 
Mans was particularly eventful. It is a 
large place, typically French, and pleasant 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

On October 2nd the Battalion was still 
further sub-divided, and two platoons of 
No. 2 Company, which included ours, went 
on to Havre to do guards there. We were 
afterwards joined by the rest of the Com- 

Our job primarily was to guard the big 
shed at Havre through which the supplies 
for the front passed ; this shed is known as 
the Hangar aux Cotons, and has ships on 
one side and the railway on the other. 

We lived at this time in a camp by the 
docks, in between two sets of railway lines. 
It was not an ideal spot to spend the month 
of October in; others might have preferred 
shooting partridges in the Eastern Coun- 
ties, but we got along well enough, and 
were becoming so hardened to discomfort 
that we really didn't mind it, and began to 
regard our previous pre-war luxurious liv- 
ing as belonging to some other world we 
had once lived in but should never visit 

There wasn't much excitement at Havre. 
We had a few amusing incidents with 
drunken soldiery while doing our guards; 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

they used to hate us, and call us Terri- 
torials, and their language when marched 
off under escort would awaken the dead. 

And so this ordinary routine of life went 
on, the monotony of guard mounting being 
relieved by an occasional fatigue, potato 
peeling, or some such congenial task. 
Occasionally men were sent off to guard 
trains going up to Railhead, and they were 
thought tremendous heroes if they contriv- 
ed to see a shell burst during their travels. 

There was much speculation during 
those early days as to whether we should 
ever be used as fighting troops, and there 
were actually people to be found who 
thought we should spend the whole war at 
the base, and although some timid souls 
contrived to do this, it was not to be our 
fate, as we discovered before very long. 

We were ordered on the 26th, 100 men 
and three officers, to go to Abbeville, but 
on arriving there were sent on to Boulogne, 
where we were billeted in a large mill shed 
which was already occupied by swarms of 
other men, chiefly A.S.C. At Boulogne we 
did various duties, including several 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

funeral parties for men who had died of 
wounds in hospital. 

It was here that we really got our first 
sight of the horrors of war, as the hospitals 
were all full, and car loads of fresh woun- 
ded were constantly arriving. I shall 
never forget the shiver which went down 
my back when doing a funeral party at the 
Casino hospital; on our way we passed a 
large marquee with its door open, and in- 
side what looked like a whole lot of men 
sleeping wrapped up in blankets; and I 
remember thinking what a nasty, 
draughty place to put sick men to sleep in, 
when it dawned on me that they were all 
dead men waiting to be buried. One got 
hardened to this sort of thing, but it was 
unpleasant at the time. 

On October 30th we moved on to St. 
Omer, and were quartered in the French 
barracks; here the battalion was re-formed, 
all the other companies returning. We 
did our first bit of trench digging outside 
St. Omer; we were supposed to be digging 
a line of defence, but I think it was only 
practice, and one which we discovered 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

later was very useful. The entrenching 
tool was undoubtedly the most important 
implement of war in those days, and I'm 
not at all sure it didn't remain so to the 

We heard the guns for the first time at 
St. Omer, and we were duly excited about 

There were many rumours of our going 
up to fight, and when we heard that the 
London Scottish, who had been just a week 
ahead of us all along, had had a fight at 
Messines on November 1st, we knew our 
baptism of fire was not very far off. 



ON November 5th The Day arrived, and we 
went up to Bailleul, on the borders of 
France and Belgium, in motor 'buses. 
Bailleul was then about six miles behind 
the firing line, where the desperate First 
Battle of Ypres was still going on; the Ger- 
mans had been driven out only ten days 
before, and had stripped the place bare of 
provisions, though otherwise the place w r as 
not damaged. We felt we were properly 
" for it " now; the guns were roaring all the 
time, and aeroplanes buzzing about every- 

Next day we were marched up to the top 
of a hill to try and see something of the 
battle, but unfortunately there was a thick 
mist, and nothing could be seen; but it was 
very interesting, and one could but feebly 
imagine in those days what was happening 
away out in that mist, a great drama being 
played with no one to look on and applaud. 

During our stay at Bailleul we saw one 
of our Brigades, I think it must have been 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

the 20th of the 7th Division, marching 
back to a well-earned rest after being re- 
lieved by the French. They had been in 
,the trenches continuously for three weeks, 
and had all long beards; I remember being 
very much impressed by their terribly tired 
but still determined look, and wondering 
how we poor amateurs would look if we 
had to undergo the same ordeal. 

On November 7th we moved to Estaires, 
some nine or ten miles south; we marched 
in the pitch dark, and the roads were 
terrible, all slimy mud, and altogether it 
was a very trying performance, being our 
first real active service march. 

We spent two nights .there, rather a 
jumpy time on the whole, as we expected 
,to be pushed into the battle any moment; 
and the unknown is always alarming. 

On the 9th we moved seven miles further 
South to a little place called Leslobes, due 
west of Neuve Chapelle, which was des- 
tined to mean so much to the British Army 
later on. We were now attached to an 
Indian Brigade, and very fine fellows these 
old Indians were. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Next day General Willcocks, command- 
ing the Indian Contingent, inspected us, 
and said how glad they were to have us 
fighting with them. 

The next few days we spent digging a 
reserve line west of Neuve Chapelle, about 
1,000 yards from the front line. We used 
to get up in the dark and march four or five 
miles, and then dig all day and get back in 
the dark. 

At this time something went wrong with 
the commissariat, and we got very little 
food, and no candles, so we never saw our 
billets in the light; consequently beards be- 
came the fashion, and there were some 
wonderful growths after our seven days 

On November 10th we went up in sup- 
port to some small night operation; there 
was a terrific cannonade, and I remember 
being almost inarticulate with fear, and 
quite unable to prevent my knees from 
knocking together. 

I don't think it was till the 12th that we 
got our first shells close. It was NOT a nice 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

sensation, and we dug that afternoon as we 
had never dug before. 

The next day, the 13th, my birthday 
moreover, was our first real bad day, and 
we had our first casualties. I think they 
spotted us working; anyhow, there was a 
pretty continuous stream of bullets and 
shrapnel all the morning, and we spent the 
day in a ditch of most inadequate propor- 
tions; I remember also having a streaming 
cold that day too, so it was altogether a bit 
of a red letter day. 

I have talked, I fear, rather lengthily 
about these opening days of our career, but, 
as the war was new to us then, as indeed 
to all but a very select few, these incidents 
have impressed themselves so on the mind 
that one cannot help recording them, 
though they are as nothing compared with 
other things later on which one hardly re- 

On the 16th we returned to Bailleul, 
marching sixteen miles; we were not a very 
pretty looking lot by then, what with no 
shaving or washing, and not much chance 
to clean up; the soles of my boots were 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

pretty well worn away, and I did the 
march practically on my socks, which, over 
pave roads, is no joke. 

We rested till the 21st, when, prior to 
moving to Neuve Eglise, we were inspected 
by General Sir H. Smith-Dorrien, then 
commanding the 2nd Corps. He gave us 
a wonderful address, full of optimism, 
though I think he must have been inten- 
tionally over-optimistic so that we should 
not have the " wind up " during our first 
turn of duty in the trenches. He said he 
didn't think the war would last long, and 
that 85 per cent, of the German shells were 
6 { duds"; they must have improved their 
output soon after, as we found they burst 
only too well. 



NEUVE EGLISE was our next stop, a con- 
siderable village about three miles from the 
front line. It had an evil reputation, 
shells had been known to burst there, and 
at that time we didn't like shells much. 

The idea was now to send us into the 
trenches by companies attached to regular 
battalions, so that we could learn the job 
without having much chance of doing the 
wrong thing. This system proved to be an 
excellent one, and as far as possible all new 
troops were introduced to the war in this 

The company I was in left the village on 
the night of the 22nd for the reserve line of 
trenches; we got shelled on the way by 5.9, 
and very unpleasant it was, but a perfectly 
normal occurrence, as we learnt when we 
got older. One shell, I remember, set a 
house on fire, which impressed us very 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

much at the time, especially as it was pitch 

Well, we got stuffed into funny little 
holes in the ground in the reserve line ; they 
were the best we could do in the way of 
dug-outs then; it was a terrible business 
getting into them, and well-nigh impossi- 
ble to move once in. Fortunately the night 
was quiet, and only a few stray bullets re- 
minded us that we were not sleeping peace- 
fully in our beds in England. 

Before dawn next day we moved up to 
the front line just east of Wulverghem in 
the Messines district. The war had pretty 
well subsided there, the Battle of Ypres was 
at length finished, and both sides, having 
failed to finish the war in three months as 
hoped for, settled down to that wonderful 
trench life which the world knows so well 

It was a novelty then not many people 
had been in the trenches; and now, having 
reached the foremost position, we may be 
excused that feeling of self-satisfaction 
which came over us. 

There were several rows of stumpy wil- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

low trees in front of our trenches, and at 
night to the somewhat nervy sentry they 
looked like men advancing. Exactly how 
many massed attacks those willow trees 
carried out against our position that first 
night I don't know, but I don't think any- 
one missed seeing them on the move, in 
spite of a strict water diet. 

Next morning at 9.45 a.m., and during 
the half-hour immediately following, we 
got our first real dressing down from the 
Hun. He turned a 5.9 battery on to our 
end of the trench, and for half-an-hour he 
sent continuous salvoes of four shells, some 
a few yards short of, some just over the 

For the information of those who have 
never been shelled and I suppose there 
are some, even in these days I would say 
,that howitzer shells can be heard coming 
some seconds before their actual arrival, 
and this increases their horror enormously. 

I thought my military career was going 
to be nipped in the bud that morning; it 
had frozen hard that night, and the shells 
blew great lumps of frozen earth at us, to 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

say nothing of several enormous mangold 
wurzels, two of which landed in the same 
man's lap, much to his disgust. 

We were very lucky, really, that day, as 
we had very few casualties, though the 
Eoyal Scots, to whom we were attached, 
were less fortunate. This little incident, 
small in itself, was enough to tell us that 
war was no child's game, and we left the 
[trenches next day sadder and wiser men. 

One thing which perhaps frightened us 
more than the shells even was that two old 
cows tried to get into our trench, already 
overcrowded; they came right up to the 
edge, and sniffed down on to us. I think 
they were afterwards killed by stray 

We had another short spell at the Wul- 
verghem position on the 27th, but that 
evening were unexpectedly relieved and 
sent further north, to a place called West- 
outre; we had a long and weary march 
there; I have rarely felt so beat. When we 
halted, people went to sleep by the side of 
the road; some men even slept as they 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

And so ended our apprenticeship, and 
thenceforward we worked as a complete 
unit, being part of the 7th Infantry Brigade 
of the 3rd Division, commanded then by 
Maj .-Gen. Haldane. The 7th Brigade con- 
tained, if I remember right, a battalion of 
the Wiltshires, the Worcesters, the Royal 
Irish Rifles and the South Lancashires, -all 
regular battalions, and already veterans. 

On December 3rd we did a guard of hon- 
our to His Majesty on his first visit to the 
Front; he went up Sherpenberg Hill and 
watched our guns firing on to the Ypres 

From now till the end of 1914 we did a 
regular roster of trench duty in front of 

Our first experience there is perhaps 
worth talking about. 

The weather had been terrible, continu- 
ous rain having fallen; the trenches were 
in an awful state. We had to relieve the 
Royal Scots Fusiliers of the 9th Brigade; 
they had had an awful time from the cold 
and wet; we found the front line trenches 
knee deep in water, and the support ones 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

knee deep in mud. We had three men 
stuck up to their waists in mud for eight 
hours before they could be liberated; we 
tried to get them out with shovels, but the 
shovels got stuck too; and eventually two 
or three men rolled up their sleeves and 
loosened their feet by hand work. 

We were supposed to have 48 hours 
there, and during that time people had 
been gradually dropping off, with numbed 
feet and general collapse. After r 48 hours 
the relief was cancelled, and we were faced 
with another twenty-four hours; depress- 
ing, to say the least of it, and it had started 
raining again. I thought I was going all 
right, though not exactly enjoying life, un- 
til I was ordered to get out of my seat in 
the slime, and help carry in the rations, 
and then my legs quite failed to function, 
and I sat gracefully down in the mud and 
stayed there. 

Meanwhile, all the sick, and there were 
many, some half mad with cold and expo- 
sure, were collected in a little cottage just 
behind; thither I was escorted by some 
kind person, falling continually on the 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

way, and found there a most wonderful 
company assembled a collection of half 
dead, groaning humanity, some delirious, 
and all incapable of movement. I eventu- 
ally got myself back with some other suffer- 
ers (we had found a bottle of rum, which I 
think must have had something to do with 
it) to a big farm house where the reserve 
Companies were, and there we got every 
attention, and had a wonderful night's 
sleep on a hard floor. 

Well, that wasn't a very pleasant start 
in the new sector, and we wondered if it 
would always be like that. I remember 
feeling then that I really couldn't last 
much longer, one felt so absolutely dead 

I daresay it doesn't sound as if we had 
done very much up to then, but we were all 
new to it all; there were no old soldiers to 
show us the way, and everyone knew so 
little about war then that we didn't get 
those many comforts which arrived in later 
years. We were pioneers of the Trench 
Life Movement, and we suffered for our 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

When out of the line we used to billet at 
Locre, a little village two miles west of 
Kemmel Hill, and not far from Bailleul, a 
place we used to go into as a kind of relaxa- 
tion, to see a shop and a civilian again. 

On the 14th December the 8th Brigade 
carried out an attack in front of Kemmel, 
and we were kept ready at Locre in reserve. 
The attack didn't accomplish much beyond 
showing the Beehe we were still alive and 
ready for him. The Royal Scots and Gor- 
dons suffered especially heavily in the at- 
tack on Petit Bois. It was a difficult place 
to attack; the Boche commanded our 
Drenches from the Wytschaete ridge, and 
although we got an even better view from 
Kemmel Hill, it didn't prevent him using 
his high ground. 

It was rather a distressing little show 
altogether; attacking in those days was a 
terribly costly business; we knew so little 
about this unprecedented form of war. 

And so things went on till the end of this 
very remarkable year. 

We had Christmas Day in the front line, 
a thick fog making things even pleasanter. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

We dropped our plum puddings in the 
mud, and altogether it was very dismal. 
However, the Boche was very quiet, and 
we had no shelling at all, so we were thank- 
ful for small mercies. 

This Kemmel had been the scene of a 
bloodsome conflict between the French and 
the Boche, and the dead still lay thick on 
the ground; there was one particularly 
nasty group of Frenchmen caught by some 
wire and mown down. 

Possibly the most dangerous time we 
had here was in billets in Kemmel; the 
Boche used to thrown 11-inch shells into 
the village, choosing our particular end al- 
most invariably. 

About this time Captain Whyte went 
home sick, and Captain Garnsey took over 
the Company, and remained in command 
till I left. 




WELL, the New Year arrived, and was seen 
in in the customary fashion, and everyone 
hoped 1915 would see Germany beaten and 
peace restored; how wrong people were it 
is unnecessary to emphasise. Personally, 
I always thought the war had come to stay, 
and even when, many years later, they told 
me the Armistice had been signed, I didn't 
believe it. 

The early days of 1915 found us still wal- 
lowing in the mud of Kemmel, and this we 
continued to do for some time. 

It was very wearying work, cold and 
wet, and always expecting a shell to arrive, 
and going in and out of the trenches run- 
ning the gauntlet of stray bullets; these 
"strays" were really the chief danger at 
this time. The Germans had a nasty habit 
of suddenly opening rapid rifle fire for no 
apparent reason; and the number of bullets 
which seemed just to miss me I shouldn't 
like to recount. I remember one particu- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

larly famous bullet which several people 
claimed as having just missed them; I 
thought it had missed the end of my nose 
by a hairsbreadth; the man behind had a 
similar idea, and so on; this shows how 
difficult it was to say exactly where they 

Verey lights, or star shells as we used to 
call them, were a nuisance too, especially 
if they fell over one's head, and they show- 
ed up reliefs coming up quite clearly, and 
it meant flopping in the mud as soon as one 
was seen coming. 

On January 12th our first reinforcement 
of 400 men arrived from England, among 
them those unlucky ones who just got left 
behind in September. Their arrival rather 
cheered us up, as it amused us showing 
them round the war and playing the veter- 
an to them. 

In February the Boche began to wake up 
a bit, chiefly further north round Ypres, 
and we got quite a lot of shelling, though 
no actual attack in our part. But we felt 
the effects of his Ypres attacks in that 
troops from our Division had to be sent 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

north to help, and consequently we had to 
do longer spells in the trenches, and reliefs 
became very problematical, and many in- 
tended reliefs had to be cancelled at the last 
moment. Nothing was more disappoint- 
ing to the tired soldier, looking forward to 
a wash and a bit of sleep and a walk to 
stretch one's legs, than to be expecting re- 
lief and then not to get it; this we had to 
put up with often in the early days of 

In February we moved slightly north to 
other trenches known as the K trenches. 
There was one particularly nasty line there 
known as the K support pits, being a line 
of dug-outs, flush with the ground, into 
which one crawled and lay there through- 
out the hours of light, getting up at night 
for a little exercise among the bullets. That 
place was an awful nightmare, and I was 
thankful my platoon only went there once. 

We didn't stay very long at a time in the 
front lines, coming back to a large building 
known as the "Creamery," only about 
half a mile back; it was quite intact, and 
held about half a battalion; half the batta- 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

lion used to be there and half in front. It 
always seemed a marvel to me why they 
never shelled the old Creamery, as they 
used to plaster the farms all round. The 
usual explanations for buildings being let 
off was that they had belonged to Germans 
in peace time; I expect it was flattened out 
before the war finished. I never went to 
that part after leaving the H. A.C. 

The last week of February we returned to 
our old trenches, the F's,, and it seemed like 
going home, almost. 

About this time we were lent to the 85th 
Brigade, who had come south after a bad 
time at Ypres, and were much reduced in 

At the beginning of March we had about 
our longest tour of duty in the line. My 
platoon lived in a redoubt, 300 yards from 
the front, for nine days on end; we felt like 
caged animals before the end. Before we 
were relieved an attack was carried out by 
the 7th Brigade as a side show to the Neuve 
Chapelle battle further south. 

We held the actual line, and the other 
Brigade was to pass through us to the at- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

tack. Our new 15-inch howitzer was fired 
for the first time in this show. 

The attack was carried out by the Wor- 
cester and Wiltshire Eegiments; they form- 
ed up on the night of ll-12th March, with 
the idea of attacking at dawn on the 12th 
with the aid of a heavy bombardment. 
However, there was such a thick fog in the 
morning, the same fog which muddled 
things so for us at Neuve Chapelle, that the 
attack had to be put off, and didn't actually 
take place till 4.10 in the afternoon. It was 
preceded by what we thought then to be a 
terrific bombardment, and we kept our 
heads pretty low in our redoubt to dodge 
the German reply, which , however, was 
luckily very feeble. 

The attack was not a success, though 
carried out most gallantly. Certain 
trenches were taken, and the Boche got 
pretty well disorganised, and started off to 
Wytschaete village behind; there appeared 
to be some misunderstanding between our 
gunners and our infantry, a thing which 
unfortunately did occur from time to time, 
and the captured trenches were so heartily 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

shelled by both sides that our men had re- 
luctantly to withdraw; it is doubtful any- 
how if the trenches could have been held, 
as the front of the attack was so limited 
that they must have been taken in flank if 
the Germans had any go in them at all, and 
in those days they were full of it. 

Our losses were considerable, and it may 
appear to the uninitiated that the whole 
thing was a waste of life, but I imagine it 
must really have succeeded in its primary 
object, that of preventing reinforcements 
from our sector being sent to Neuve Chap- 
elle, where the real blow was being 

On the 13th we were still in our redoubt, 
with no prospect of being anything else; all 
the rest of the Battalion had been doing 
inter-company reliefs, but there weren't 
quite enough men to relieve us too; how- 
ever, on the 13th evening, as motley a col- 
lection of soldiers as ever took the battle- 
field came up to relieve us; they were trans- 
port men, cooks, drummers and what not, 
men whose daily life lay behind the lines, 
but they all counted, and they gave us that 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

rest for which we had been longing so many 

We went to Kemmel that night, and 
were to have gone further back next day, 
but the Germans tactlessly started their 
counter blow to our offensive, and selected 
St. Eloi, just next door to us, as the venue. 
Eesult, instead of going back we went for- 
ward again. However, on the 16th we 
were relieved by the 7th Brigade, who were 
by then rested from their efforts of the 12th, 
and we went back to camp at Westoutre. 

It may be of interest to some to say that 
it was at this stage that hand bombing first 
came in; the Germans had been doing it for 
a little time already, but our first bombing 
instruction took place in March, 1915. 

We had a week's rest at Westoutre. The 
time passed pleasantly enough; we played 
stump cricket matches, although some- 
what early in the year for the game, and 
really rather enjoyed life. 

We had meanwhile returned to our old 
love, the 7th Brigade, and it was with them 
we did our next period in the trenches. 




ON March 23rd we went up to the trenches 
at St. Eloi, taking over the line as it was 
after the very gallant attack by, I think, 
an Irish battalion, but I fear I forget 
which, had practically restored the situa- 
tion after the German attack on the 15th. 

The Commanding Officer (Lieut. -Colonel 
Treffry, who had been with us since the 
start) addressed the battalion before we 
went up, and warned us of the importance 
of the position, and exhorted us to be speci- 
ally on the alert owing to recent German 
attacks and the prospect of more to come. 

The position of St. Eloi was this the 
actual village, which was only a few 
houses, was in No Man's Land; the famous 
mound, a tumulus of earth, was held by the 
Germans, and overlooked our lines, al- 
though a constant target for our artillery; 
the village and the mound had been in our 
hands before the 15th. One curious fea- 
ture of No Man's Land was a derelict 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

London motor 'bus which had been used to 
rush up reinforcements and had fallen a 
victim to a German shell. 

We got in for a good deal of shelling, a 
new and very small type making its first 

We held the village of Voormezeele, 
1,000 yards behind, and our reserves were 
billeted there in cellars. The village was 
a complete wreck, and I remember going 
over the churchyard there and being dis- 
gusted by seeing the tombs all blown up 
and bones lying about everywhere. 

After our tour of duty here we went back 
to Dickebusch, some two and a half miles 
back; this village was then more or less 
intact, but was destined later to be flatten- 
ed out. 

Life was pretty strenuous now, as while 
out of the line we had to go up every night 
and dig a reserve line of trenches to bar the 
next German attack if it came. 

I think it may be said that at this time we 
were in rather a precarious state; we still 
had only the old Army, plus a few Territor- 
ials, and the Germans appeared to be 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

strong everywhere, and it was reasonable 
to suppose that they might start a big 
offensive any moment. And so it was that 
the few troops we had got and the battle 
of Neuve Chapelle had lost us a lot had to 
work terrifically hard, with no prospect of 
anything else until such time as Kitchen- 
er's Army, as everyone called it, was ready 
to come to our assistance. 

As it turned out, things quietened down 
for a bit, and we had no trouble at St. Eloi. 
The Germans were evidently planning that 
devilishly cunning attack carried out at 
Ypres at the end of April, when they first 
introduced poisoned gas into warfare, thus 
rendering it even more horrible than be- 

On April 3rd I paid my first visit to 
Ypres; it was more or less a " joy-ride, " 
and I had to get leave to go there. The 
town, though badly damaged in parts, was 
still a thriving community, and was full of 
people, the square being full of street ven- 
dors. We had an excellent lunch at a res- 
taurant, and saw all over the place. It was 
a very different Ypres to the one we got to 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

know so well in 1916 and 1917. The Cathe- 
dral was pretty well ruined even then, and 
the beautiful Cloth Hall was being used as 
a stable for mules. 

Next day I said farewell to the Battalion, 
on going to a Cadet School prior to getting 
a commission. 

I should like, before going on to other 
matters, to pay a humble tribute to this 
very wonderful Battalion; it had an 
"esprit de corps" second only to that of 
the Brigade of Guards, and it was that, 
coupled with the way everyone tried to 
help everyone else, that brought us 
through those early and most trying days. 
Personally, I never wish to be treated more 
kindly and more patiently by my superiors 
than I was in those days. The Battalion 
had many difficulties, but never received 
anything but praise from the Higher 

I left the Battalion with my old friends 
Corkran and Elwes, the former destined 
for the Grenadiers, as I was myself, and 
the latter for the Coldstream. No one 
could have had two stauncher friends 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

these two during these times, and of them 
more anon. 

We went to our Cadet School first at 
Bailleul, and afterwards moving to Blend- 
ecques, near St. Omer, and a very delight- 
ful change it was too, and we all enjoyed it 
very much. I unluckily caught German 
measles three-quarters way through the 
course, and had to return to complete it, 
thus being longer getting my commission 
than I should have. 

Included in the course were two short 
visits to the trenches to study life there 
from the officer's point of view. Owing to 
my measles I got in for three visits, and 
went successively to Wulverghem, attach- 
ed to a battalion of the Staffs. Eegiment, 
Ploegsteert Wood, then most peaceful, at- 
tached to the 8th Battalion Worcester 
Regiment, and Armentieres, if anything 
more peaceful still, attached to the 2nd 
Battalion Welsh Fusiliers. 

On the 26th May I left for England, a 
full-blooded ensign in the Grenadiers, and 
there was no prouder man in the British 
** rmy. 




AFTER a short three days' leave, which was 
all one got in those days, I returned to 
France to try and be an officer. 

It was with no little trepidation that I 
started on my new career. Guardsmen 
aren't made in a day, and I was one of a 
very small number who joined the regi- 
ment in France direct from another regi- 
ment without first passing through the 
very necessary moulding process at Chel- 
sea Barracks. 

Thus, it may be imagined that I commit- 
ted many sins when I first started, and but 
for the extraordinary energy always shown 
by the Commanding Officer (Major Jef- 
freys, as he was then) in all matters con- 
cerning the regiment, I might never have 
learnt my lesson at all. As it was, he set 
to work to try and turn me into a soldier, 
and I am afraid it must have been tedious 
work. It meant my having special instruc- 
tion three times a day when we were out of 
the line, and I confess I hated it at the 


Reminiscences ot a Grenadier 

time, but have never regretted it since, and 
have never ceased to be thankful for the 
interest taken in me at that time. 

I joined the 2nd Battalion Grenadier 
Guards on the 31st May. They had just 
finished seven days' rest after the battle of 
Festubert, and on arriving at Vendin, near 
Bethune, where I was told I should find 
them, I found they had gone south that 
morning to Noeux-les-Mines. However, 
luckily I found part of the transport still 
there, and I made friends with the post ser- 
geant, who gave me a tin of Maconochie 
for my lunch, and conducted me to a seat 
on a G.S. waggon; thus we arrived at 
Noeux that afternoon. 

I was posted to No. 3 Company, com- 
manded by Captain Ivor Rose, the other 
officers being Armar Corry and my old 
friend Corkran, who was most useful in 
telling me what to do and what not to. 

We were to remain at Noeux till June 
6th, when we were to take over a line of 
trenches from some Territorials who had 
recently relieved the French there. 

On the 4th June we had an Old Etonian 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

dinner of some sixty odd people from the 
4th (Guards) Brigade. This Brigade form- 
ed part of the 2nd Division, under Major- 
General Home, and consisted of our Batta- 
lion, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions Cold- 
stream, and the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, 
plus the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regi- 
ment attached. 

On the 5th Captain Rose went sick with 
fever, and Captain Ralph Cavendish took 
over the Company, and I remained under 
him the rest of my time with the Battalion. 
The other company commanders at this 
time were Major Lord Henry Seymour, 
Major de Crespigny, Captain P. A. Clive. 
Major Jeffreys had just got command, suc- 
ceeding Col. Wilfred Abel Smith, who was 
killed at Festubert. 

I doubt very much if a finer battalion 
than the 2nd Battalion at this time has ever 
existed; to me, of -course, it was a perfect 

We took over our new line on the 6th, in 
front of Cambrin, and the Brgade held it 
till the 27th. Although this was stationary 
warfare as far as we were concerned, there 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

were many interesting, not to say danger- 
ous, moments during this tour of duty. 

Our first job there was to cut the grass in 
front of our trenches; this had grown so 
high that it was impossible to see what was 
going on in No Man's Land. It was whilst 
in charge of a grass cutting party that poor 
Reggie Corkran received the wound from 
which he died a few days later. The Ger- 
mans sent over a Verey light and spotted 
the party working, and opened rifle fire on 
them, wounding Corkran in the thigh; we 
never thought for a moment that the 
wound was dangerous, and his death came 
as a great shock. I need hardly say I felt 
his loss very keenly; we had been together 
during the whole campaign up till then, 
and no more unselfish or charming person 
ever lived; during the whole of that very 
trying first winter there was never a word 
of complaint and never a suspicion of 
grousing from him, and goodness knows, 
the rest of us groused enough ; and he was 
always a shining example of what a good 
soldier ought to be. Had he lived he would 
have done great things for the Regiment. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

When not actually in the front lines we 
used to billet in Sailly Labourse, a strag- 
gling mining village of no particular im- 
portance, and we were comfortable enough 
there in spite of occasional shellings. 

The trenches we occupied were remark- 
ably good, with most luxurious, if some- 
what unsafe, dug-outs. I fancy the French 
had had a pretty quiet winter there, and 
had made themselves thoroughly comfort- 

In the second week of June there were 
rumours of another attack coming off, and 
the Brigadier, Lord Cavan, lectured all the 
officers of the Brigade on the offensive 
spirit; it is interesting to note that he 
quoted from an article from the "Round 
Table," describing that article as quite the 
best and most sensible thing he had yet 
seen written about the war. The writer of 
that article joined the Brigade as a junior 
ensign in the 2nd Battalion the next week, 
in the person of 2nd Lieut. E. W. M. Grigg. 

It appeared that the French were con- 
templating operations in the Souchez dis- 
trict, and required assistance from us; so 


Reminiscences oi a Grenadier 

the 4th Corps, on our left about Givenchy, 
were to carry out an attack, and if it was 
successful it was to spread to our part of 
the line. 

Well, this attack took place on June 
15th, and failed; it was continued on the 
16th, but came to nothing; it was only a 
local attack, and any ground gained was 
lost again by bombing attacks. Our artil- 
lery support was poor too, through no fault 
of our gunners, but from the very lament- 
able shortage of shells at that time, a short- 
age which cramped us at every turn. 

The Germans fired 5.9 high explosive, 
and bigger, at us, and we could only reply 
with mountain guns and 18-pounder 
shrapnel. The reason of this shortage is 
nothing to do with me, but it was the cause 
of our complete inactivity during the 
summer of 1915. 

On the 19th June I was sent on my first 
patrol with a sergeant and three men; our 
job was to spy out the land round the new 
earth-work which the Germans had just 
prepared, and which we called the Hohen- 
zollern Redoubt. This place was destined 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

to become famous later, but was then in its 
infancy. I don't claim to have found out 
a great deal about it that night, but we got 
to know all about the beastly place later in 
the year, as a later chapter will reveal. 

On the 27th we were relieved, if I remem- 
ber right, by the 1st Division, and we went 
back for a week or ten days' rest, first at 
Fouquereil and then at Oblinghem, and 
finally Annezin, all three places being just 
outside Bethune. 

On the 29th June the Brigadier left to 
command a Division, and General Feilding 
took his place. The latter had commanded 
the 3rd Battalion Coldstream. 




OUR rest round Bethune passed off un- 
eventfully, and on July 5th we returned 
once more to the war. 

We were to hold a line just north of our 
previous position, and just in front of what 
was once the village of Cuinchy. The Bri- 
gade had had previous experience of the 
place earlier in the year, and its reputation 
was none too pleasant. 

It was one of those places where the Ger- 
man was very close, and where there was 
much mining going on, and where one ex- 
pected to go up in the air at any moment. 
Enormous trench mortar bombs used to 
arrive at intervals, and one never quite 
knew what to expect. I didn't get in for 
very much of this Cuinchy place, as I de- 
veloped a disease which was finally diag- 
nosed as nettle rash, and retired to St. 
Omer labelled " Measles. " There I stayed 
till the 17th, bored beyond measure, and I 
was only too glad to get back to the war 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

We used to do two days in the front lines 
and two in Bethune. Bethune was a com- 
fortable place to billet in, and was very 
little knocked about; shells arrived spas- 
modically, but chiefly round the station, 
which one could avoid; they occasionally 
had a go at the square ; and the only thing 
to do then was to stop indoors and pray one 
might not arrive on the roof. 

Apart from this. Bethune was a cheerful 
place, and a great shopping centre for 
troops from miles around; it also had quite 
a respectable cocktail establishment 
known as the " Globe/' where the drunken 
soldiery used to foregather. 

On the 21st July, the Worcester Regi- 
ment, of another Brigade, relieved us, and 
we returned for eight days to Bethune, till 
it took us for the Giverichy line. 

Now, Givenchy was no joke; it was like 
Cuinchy, only the things which one dread- 
ed happening at the latter actually did 
happen at Givenchy. The Battalion was 
in the neighbourhood for sixteen days, and 
had some 200 casualties during that time, 
simply holding the trenches. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

There was a continuous hail of trench 
mortar bombs all night, and usually a mine 
or two went up in the early morning. These 
mines were luckily generally a bit short of 
their mark., and it was the trench mortars 
which did the real damage. It was a per- 
fect nightmare there, and was one of the 
most trying places I was at the whole war, 
possibly only beaten by the Hohenzollern 
Redoubt later in the same year. 

All mines which went up had to be re- 
ported by telephone, and I remember 
standing with my company commander 
one grey dawn when one happened just in 
front of us, and I was left to see if another 
did, and sure enough it did, and worse than 
the last; it is a most curious sensation, and 
one denied to those who came later to the 
war, as mining died out towards the end. 

We had several officer casualties. Cap- 
tain Percy Clive was partially buried by a 
mine and also wounded, and went down; 
the same mine buried Crookshank, one of 
his subalterns, for twenty minutes; the 
latter didn't seem to worry at all at his mis- 
fortune, and carried on at duty as soon as 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

he had been disinterred, minus, however, 
his cap, and the one he borrowed from a 
private soldier didn't fit, and this was his 
only trouble ! 

Arthur Wiggins, who had joined my 
company shortly before then, took com- 
mand of No. 2 Company in succession to 

On August 10th there was an unlucky 
incident. We had been bombing the 
enemy all day from a sap-head, trying to 
prevent him building a new forward 
trench, the party consisting of the bombing 
officer, G. Bailey, and one officer from the 
front line company, and one other rank. 
The operation was successful enough, but 
just before being relieved by the Irish 
Guards Bailey was killed by a bomb, and 
Armar Corry, the other officer there, badly 
wounded in the face. It was a most un- 
lucky thing, and unlucky for the Battalion, 
as Gerry Bailey was one of the most popu- 
lar men in the Battalion, and quite without 

On the same day Captain Derriman, who 
had left the Battalion a few weeks before 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

to become Staff Captain, died of wounds 
received walking along the La Bassee road. 
Shortly after, E. G. Williams, while doing 
a trench mortar course, was killed acciden- 
tally by a premature explosion. 

So rather a gloom came over the Batta- 
lion, and it was with few regrets that we 
turned our backs on Givenchy; the only re- 
deeming feature of this sector was the vil- 
lage of Le Preol on the La Bassee canal, 
where we used to go when not actually in 
the front lines. It was very peaceful, and 
might have been miles from the war, 
though actually only two miles. Warfare 
here was essentially close, and at Le Preol 
we felt perfectly safe. 

The drums of the Battalion arrived when 
we were there, and there was great excite- 
ment at hearing them play again. 

Wilfred Beaumont-Nesbitt joined the 
Company at Le Preol. 

We returned to Bethune on the 15th, and 
on the 19th we started on our march back 
to the St. Omer district to form the Guards' 
Division. We thus left the 2nd Division, 
and the 4th Brigade was no more; there 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

were many regrets at the change, and we 
lost our old friends the Herts. Regiment, 
who had shared our troubles so long. 

We did the journey in three stages, stay- 
ing nights at Ham-en-Artois and Renes- 
cure en route, arriving on the 21st at 
Houlle, having marched past Sir John 
French at St. Omer. 

On the 24th we moved to Campagne les. 
Boulonais, and incidentally had one of the 
hottest marches I remember. Here we 
stayed while the Division was formed. 

Various changes had taken place in the 
Battalion. Lord H. Seymour had become 
second in command; Major de Crespigny 
had gone to the 1st Battalion as second in 
command, the Companies being comman- 
ded by (1) Captain J. N. Buchanan, (2) 
Captain Wiggins, (3) Captain Cavendish, 
(4) Captain Kingsmill. 




THE idea of forming a Guards' Division 
emanated, I believe, from the late Lord 

The change was not popular at first, as 
people thought that if the Division took a 
bad knock, the Brigade of Guards might be 
finished, but as it turned out the Division 
took many bad knocks, but always came 
up smiling; and I don't think anyone will 
question the success of the new idea or 
wish that it had been otherwise. 

In order to bring the Division up to 
strength, i.e., 12 ordinary Battalions and 
one Pioneer, the 3rd Battalion Grenadiers, 
the only remaining Eegular Battalion, was 
sent out from London, and the Regiment 
formed a 4th Battalion, which arrived 
shortly after. The Coldstream formed a 
4th Battalion, which became a Pioneer 
Battalion; the Irish Guards formed a 2nd 
Battalion; and, lastly, the new Welsh 
Guards' Battalion was sent out. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Thus the three Brigades were made up 
as under : 

The 1st Guards' Brigade (the old 4th Bri- 
gade) : 

2nd Batt. Grenadier Guards, 

2nd Batt. Coldstream, 

3rd Batt. Coldstream, 

1st Batt. Irish Guards, 
under Brig. -Gen. Feilding. 
The 2nd Guards' Brigade (remains of the 
old 1st Infantry Brigade) : 

3rd Batt. Grenadier Guards, 

1st Batt. Coldstream, 

1st Batt. Scots Guards, 

2nd Batt. Irish Guards, 
under Brig. -Gen. Ponsonby. 
The 3rd Guards' Brigade (remains of the 
old 20th Brigade) : 

1st Batt. Grenadier Guards, 

4th Batt. Grenadier Guards, 

2nd Batt. Scots Guards, 

1st Batt. Welsh Guards, 
under Brig. -Gen. Heyworth; with Lord 
Cavan commanding the Division. 

Having concentrated, we set to work to 
train for the new great offensive which 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

everyone was talking about, but of which, 
officially, no one knew anything. 

Meanwhile, a good many of us got some 
leave, and I went home for a week in Sep- 

We stayed at Compagne till the 22nd 
September, and we had a very good rest; 
it was pretty country and away from the 
sound of guns, and we were thoroughly re- 
cuperated by the time the Loos battle came 
on. It was as well we had this rest, as 
there were hard times in store for us. 

We received reinforcements in officers 
and men, and my company officers then 
consisted of Cavendish, B. Ponsonby, Nes- 
bit, Ingleby and myself. 

Bv the 22nd September we were ready 

.L %/ 

for anything, and really keen to get at the 
German again. 

The great battle of Loos was due to start 
on the 25th; much was expected from this 
battle; experts thought it might materially 
shorten the war. Maps of country far be- 
hind the German lines were issued, coun- 
try not actually seen by us till after the 
Armistice. Douai was to be our first real 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

stopping place, Berlin our final objective! 

That the battle was a bitter disappoint- 
ment need hardly be said, but we learnt 
many lessons from it, and it was not in 

We left Compagne on the evening of the 
22nd, all our movements being by night, 
and slept at Coyecques, leaving next day 
for Westrehem, where we stayed two 
nights. All night long on the 24-25th 
night we could hear the roar of artillery, a 
roar such as we had never heard before. 

Next day was the great day, and we rose 
early for Ferfay, a place some ten miles 
from the line. 

We were G.H.Q. reserve, and meant to 
be pushed through the gap when made. 

Meanwhile, the weather broke, as it gen- 
erally did when we contemplated a 
" push," and we had a wet and miserable 
march on from Ferfay to Noeux-les-Mines, 
where we spent the night of the 25-26 th. 
The roads were blocked with troops and 
transport, and altogether we were pretty 
weary by the time we arrived; this was un- 
fortunate, as we had been so full of buck 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Next morning we were at half-an-hour's 
notice to move, and spent a most jumpy 
morning, expecting to move off any 

Waiting to " pop the parapet " is one of 
the richer sensations of warfare, and per- 
haps the most trying of the lot. 

However, at 1 p.m. on the 26th we got 
on the move, going up by platoons, 
through our old friend Sailly Labourse, 
which had an unwontedly busy look about 
it, and on through Vermelles. 

We passed little knots of men on the way 
up, and one felt that one was in for some 
dirty work shells bursting everywhere 
ahead confirmed this impression. 

Vermelles village was a wonderful sight; 
it made me think, though I had never seen 
it, of Hampstead Heath on Bank Holiday; 
crowds everywhere, horses, carts, every- 
one seemed to have gathered there for the 
show; Generals with their staffs looking 
through their field glasses, wounded men 
walking back, some unwounded men, I 
fear, running back; fresh troops coming 
up, and an occasional shell bursting in the 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

middle of the lot. Here the Hampstead 
Heath idea fades into the background; 
there were dead horses everywhere in the 
road, and the scene was really most exhil- 

Vermelles, when we knew it in June, 
had been a place one crept through under 
cover of darkness, and here were all these 
thousands swarming in daylight; it seemed 
all wrong. 

When we got through the village we were 
told things were going better; a Eegular 
battalion of Black Watch and some others 
had done a good attack and restored the 
situation, so we were to take up a position 
just in rear of the front line for the night. 

Next day things were fairly quiet in our 
part of the line, but we could see attacks 
going on on our left at Fosse 8, a large slag 
heap which changed hands several times, 
and we could see lines of men attack and 
get driven back and then return again to 
the attack; they must have suffered terri- 
bly. That afternoon, about 4 p.m., the 
2nd and 3rd Guards' Brigades carried out 
an attack on our right against Hill 70 and 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

the chalk pits and Puits 14 Bis ; this attack 
became famous owing to the wonderful 
steadiness of the troops under terrible fire, 
and those who watched it were amazed. 
Our Brigade did not move, but held a de- 
fensive position on the flank of the attack. 

The 2nd and 3rd Brigades had terrible 
losses, but achieved a certain measure of 
success, and at any rate put things straight 
in that part of the line. 

I did not actually see anything of the at- 
tack, so have not described it fully, as I 
wish only to write of things I actually saw 
myself in the war, so it must not be thought 
that this was only a small affair, but it was 
indeed one of the most glorious of the Divi- 
sion's achievements, and will be remem- 
bered as the first of its many successes. 

The next three nights we dug like mad 
consolidating the new line, and the whole 
Division was relieved on the night 30th-lst 
October by another Division, exactly 
which I can't remember, except that we 
were relieved by a Battalion of Eoyal Fusil- 
iers, and the company taking over from us 
was commanded by a man who had been 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

at Eton with me, Elliot Cooper by name; he 
afterwards got a V.C. and was killed. 

We marched back to Mazingarbe more 
dead than alive. We had had no sleep up 
there, and although not actually attacking, 
we had a pretty hard time, and not with- 
out anxiety. 

We only got two days' rest at Mazing- 
arbe, and then went forward again. 

At this time my next change of Battalion 
took place; we were ordered to send two 
officers to the 3rd Battalion and two to the 
4th to help replace their casualties; and I 
was ordered to go to the 3rd with Hermon- 
Hodge, Sitwell and Ingleby going to the 
4th. I was very disappointed at leaving 
the Battalion, but I was still junior ensign, 
so I suppose it took me to go, but it was a 
bitter moment. 




I ARRIVED at the 3rd Battalion on October 
3rd. They had just moved up again, and 
were in trenches and cellars round Ver- 
melles. Colonel Noel Corry was command- 
ing, with Major Montgomery second in 
command. The companies were com- 
manded by (1) Wolridge Gordon, (2) Wal- 
ker, (3) Powell, (4) Bowling. I was posted 
to No. 2 Company, the only other subaltern 
there being Alec Agar-Robartes. 

I must say I found the 3rd Battalion 
rather young soldiers in the art of trench 
warfare; this was only natural, as it was 
their first attempt at it. Some of the offi- 
cers and men had been out before, but in 
the days of open warfare. 

I found the company officers just about 
to start lunch, with no appliances for doing 
so, and only old Maconochie stew to eat; 
in the 2nd Battalion, through long months 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

of practice, we had our messing arrange- 
ments well-nigh perfect, and lived pretty 
sumptuously, or there was trouble for the 
Mess President if we didn't ! 

Company H.Q. were then in an open 
trench, but I suggested that a cellar near 
by in Vermelles would be more comfort- 
able, and eventually we moved there, not 
that it was exactly a bed of roses there, as 
there were two 6-inch howitzers about ten 
yards from our window, and the shock 
when they fired nearly blew one out of the 

Well, we had two nights of this place, 
and then moved up to the front system; 
Nos. 3 and 4 Companies were to hold the 
front line, No. 1 in close support, and our- 
selves in reserve. 

The relief was not too well organised, 
again owing to lack of experience in such 
matters, and we took most of the night 
finding our new position. This position 
was in the western face of the Hohenzol- 
lern Redoubt; the remainder of the redoubt 
was in the hands of the Germans. We had 
the 3rd Battalion Coldstream, of the 1st 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Brigade, on our right; the Germans were 
on our immediate left, and further to the 
left came the 3rd Brigade. 

It was not a pleasant position to hold, 
especially for troops who were making 
their bow to trench warfare. 

I say all this leading up to the events of 
the 8th of October, a day never to be for- 
gotten by those who were present at the 
Hohenzollern Redoubt; the Battalion lost 
its name pretty thoroughly, but I honestly 
believe that if any other battalion had been 
there precisely the same would have oc- 

On October 7th No. 2 Company was 
ordered to relieve No. 4, who had had a 
good deal of shelling, and had asked to be 
relieved; No. 3 remained on the right front, 
and No. 1 stayed in its old position. This 
front trench was known as Big Willie, and 
was about the worst trench I have ever 
been in. It was much too broad, and had 
suffered a lot from shell fire. Our right 
flank, as I have said, was secure, but our 
left was in the air, with but a single block 
between us and the enemy. We had a 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

strong bombing post there, consisting of all 
our expert bombers under Lieut. A. Anson, 
the bombing officer; their job was to watch 
that flank, while the rest of the battalion 
watched their front. 

The next morning the German artillery 
was pretty active, and they kept up a spas- 
modic shelling on the battalion front; how- 
ever, we never suspected anything un- 
usual, and I remember lunching that day 
with Walker, Alec Robartes, Arthur Anson 
and Williams, the M.G. officer. Suddenly, 
before we had finished, there came a cry of 
"All bombers to the left ! " Anson rushed 
off to the left flank, and that was the last 
we ever saw of him. 

Meanwhile, the sentries in front reported 
a frontal attack, and we lined the parapet 
and blazed off our rifles and machine guns, 
and had a real good shoot and beat them off 
all right, but far from our troubles being 
over, we suddenly saw the Germans com- 
ing down the trench on our left flank; they 
had apparently killed all our bombers, and 
were bombing us with their little stick 
bombs down the trench. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

It was a very awkward position; all 
available bombs were sent up to the left, 
but most of them were undetonated; we 
were thus completely caught in a trap, and 
the company was gradually forced back on 
to No. 3 Company. Lt. Williams mounted 
a machine gun in a communication trench 
and carried on most gallantly until shot 
through the head and killed. Sergeant 
Kendrick carried on, but received the same 
fate; meanwhile, we had lined a platoon 
up along this communication trench and 
poured volley after volley at the Germans 
who were attacking strongly. All this 
time the earth shook with exploding 
bombs, and it was very difficult to think of 
what to do. We three officers got together 
and decided we would try and turn about 
and charge up the trench, but this would 
have meant an attack on a one-man front- 
age against an enemy well armed with 
bombs, and must have failed; anyhow, 
there was such a noise that no verbal 
orders could be heard, and the pushing 
back process continued. At one point the 
three officers got left behind trying to find 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

a solution, and had to double over the open 
to avoid capture; in doing this the other 
two were hit, Walker in the back and Rob- 
artes in the face. The resulting confusion 
and congestion in the trench had forced 
No. 3 Company out at their end and back 
along another communication trench to- 
wards the second line, and after about half 
an hour of this, the Germans had got pos- 
session of the whole of the battalion's front 
line, leaving the 3rd Battalion Coldstream 
with their left in the air. As it happened, 
as we had run out of bombs, our vacating 
the trench was the best and perhaps the 
only solution of the problem, as it left an 
unit which had not been engaged, and 
which had its full complement of bombs in- 
tact, a clear field for a counter bombing 
attack, and of this opportunity they were 
not slow to take advantage, Sergeant 
Brooks organising a party and regaining 
the whole of the lost trench and inflicting 
terrible casualties on the Germans. 

While this was going on, we were re- 
organising, and had got together a party 
for the counter attack under Lt. Eaton and 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Lt. Gunnis; on their arriving in the front 
they found that the Coldstream had pretty 
well finished the job, but our party was 
able to help them complete it by a further 
supply of bombs. 

The Germans then fled in all directions, 
and our No. 1 Company in support had a 
fine overhead shoot, and wrought great de- 
struction on the Germans. Thus, before 
dark the situation was entirely restored, 
and the battalion re-occupied its old 
trench, or what remained of it. This 
trench was practically blown flat, and was 
like a shambles, a horrible sight with 
masses of dead and debris everywhere; 
that night was spent digging it out. 

We discovered after that this attack was 
part of the enemy's big counter effort to 
the battle of Loos, and aimed at regaining 
all he had lost and perhaps more; that it 
failed was no small achievement for our 

The company spent next day in a reserve 
trench, recovering from the shock of the 
day before. I think we all felt a bit dazed, 
and were glad enough when we were re- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

lieved by the 4th Battalion in the evening 
and returned to Vermelles. 

The battalion had lost heavily; my com- 
pany had over 50 casualties. 

Next day, the 10th, a big draft arrived 
from England, and we were brought up to 
strength again. Captain E. O. Stewart 
took over command of No. 2, vice Captain 
Walker, who went to hospital wounded, 
and Lt. P. M. Walker also joined from 

We stayed at Vermelles till the 12th. 
There were many fatigue parties to the 
front line, chiefly carrying up gas cylin- 
ders, but Walker insisted on taking charge 
of them all and letting me have a bit of 
rest, for which I was most grateful. In 
fact, the new people just joined did every- 
thing they could to lighten our task and 
give us a chance to get ourselves right 


On the 12th the Division was relieved, 
and went back to various little villages, 
seven or eight miles in rear. 

We went to a place called Drouvin, 
where we set to work to re-organise. We 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

had very little time, as the 46th Division, 
who relieved us, were to do a gas attack 
on the 13th with the idea of clearing the 
whole of the Hohenzollern Redoubt and 
getting possession, if possible, of Fosse 8, 
known as * ' The Dump ' ' ; and we were held 
in readiness to help them either in pushing 
the attack or consolidating the ground 

Their attack unluckily failed, though 
they made two gallant attempts; and no 
ground was gained, and the losses were 

On the 15th the battalion returned to the 
front lines, just to the right of the scene of 
our previous troubles. 

Lord Frederick Blackwood joined the 
company on the way up, so we had now 
four officers. 

This relief, too, went badly, and there 
was much shelling on the way, and I 
gather the Germans tried a small attack; 
anyhow, it wasn't till we had suffered 
hours of misery that we arrived in the cor- 
rect trench; we were at first in support in 
a most unhealthy trench, and we were 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

heavily shelled by large stuff next morn- 
ing, and we looked to be in for more 

On the 16th the company was ordered 
up to the front support line preparatory to 
doing a bombing attack. The 1st Batta- 
lion Coldstream were holding the actual 
front line, a piece of the old west face of 
the Redoubt; a communication trench par- 
tially dug connected us with them. On 
their right were the Germans, and then 
came the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, and 
our job was to dig through the communica- 
tion trench, advance up it to the Cold- 
stream trench, and bomb to the flank and 
connect up with the Scots Guards, who 
would also bomb inwards. Why it was de- 
cided to do it this way I don't know; per- 
haps it was to give the battalion a chance 
of distinguishing itself after its bad luck 
of the week before; it would have seemed 
simpler for the Coldstream, who were al- 
ready in position, to do the attack. Our 
job of finishing the communication trench 
was extremely difficult; work could only be 
done at night, and then one could only sap 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

and not dig from the top, and the Germans 
were only a few yards off, and it meant 
certain death to show oneself. Moreover, 
the attack was due next morning, at dawn; 
added to this, we had to organise the attack 
in complete darkness, with fatigue parties 
and wiring parties continually passing up 
and down the trench and blocking it. I 
was to lead it with the actual bombers, the 
remainder of the company was to follow in 
rear, the other three companies being ready 
to follow if required. 

The trouble of the sap still remained, and 
it seemed impossible to get it done in the 
time, and we sent messages back more than 
once to this effect; however, we were told 
it had to be done, but it proved too much, 
and when I say that the sap wasn't finish- 
ed till the night of the 18th, I think it will 
be understood that we were given a quite 
impossible task. 

Result, of course, more loss of name to 
the battalion; the Coldstream did the at- 
tack, and altogether things weren't too 
bright for us. 

The attack took place at dawn as arran- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

ged, and was pretty well successful; we 
were to co-operate, if needed, by overhead 
fire; it was a wonderful sight, the continu- 
ous bursting of bombs, and it was difficult 
to tell what was going on. 

Meanwhile, the German artillery got to 
work, and for the rest of that morning and 
up to about three in the afternoon they gave 
our trenches the most awful pounding I 
have ever experienced. No. 1 Company 
had 50 casualties from shells that morning, 
men being continually buried. We were a 
bit more lucky in front, as the shooting 
wasn't so accurate, but it was a terrible 
day, and it seemed it would never end; the 
behaviour of the men under the ordeal was 
beyond praise. 

Lord F. Blackwood had been wounded 
and shell-shocked the night before, and 
was sent off to hospital; Lt. Walker, whose 
first fight it was, after working like a slave 
all the night before and that day, collapsed 
in a heap at the bottom of the trench, and 
also went to hospital; that left only Cap- 
tain Stewart and myself. 

That night the 1st Battalion Scots 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Guards relieved us, and we went to some 
reserve trenches in front of Vermelles, 
where it was quiet but uncomfortable. 
Three nights later we were in the front line 
again; this time we had more sapping to do. 
We were trying to dig a new front line 
about thirty yards from the Germans; it 
was most dangerous work, as the German 
was very much on the alert. It was alto- 
gether an unpleasant trench; it was known 
as the Kaiserin trench, and was lined with 
dead, our own and the 46th Division, who 
had attacked on the 13th. I remember one 
dead man being set on fire by a Verey light, 
and a perfect fusillade being started by the 
ammunition in his pouches going off. 

It took each company in turn to go and 
dig at the trench; it took us on the night of 
the 22nd, and we got the job done and 
really got some credit this time. 

Next day the 4th Battalion relieved us, 
and so good-bye to the Hohenzollern Re- 
doubt, and we never went there again. 

I think that month was the worst we ever 
had; we were kept continually at it, and at 
such close quarters, 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Major Montgomery was killed superin- 
tending the digging; his was a great loss; 
there more popular officer in the 

On the 23rd we went back to Sailly La- 
bourse, and I remember drinking a bottle 
of champagne there with more relish than 
ever before or since. 

On the 25th we went on to Norrent 
Fontes, between Lillers and Aire, where we 
had a well earned fortnight's rest. 




NORRENT FONTES was a pleasant enough 
place, and seemed particularly so after our 
recent experiences; it was away from the 
noise of guns, and there were two respect- 
ably sized towns near, Lillers and Aire, so 
one saw a little civilisation. 

New officers arrived at the end of Octo- 
ber, notably Major Maitland, as second in 
command; Worsley came to my company; 
Gunnis took command of No. 3 Company, 
vice George Powell, who went home sick; 
and Captain Napoleon Vaughan had No. 4 
in succession to Bowling, who had been 
wounded at Hohenzollern. Raymond 
Asquith joined the battalion at this time, 
so did Dick Stanhope, Alfred Yorke and 
John Hopley. 

We did much training and drilling dur- 
ing this time, and everyone was taught 
how to throw a Mills bomb. 

On October 28th we were to have been re- 
viewed by His Majesty the King, but that 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

morning His Majesty had that unfortunate 
accident that laid him up for so long, and 
the review was cancelled. 

On November 8th we moved again to 
take our place in the line in the Neuve 
Chapelle Laventie sector, a part of the 
line which had been famous early in the 
year, but which had since become fairly 

We had six days at La Gorgue, which 
was a fair-sized place joining on to 
Estaires, and which was the home of the 
Brigade in reserve, the other two brigades 
being in the line. 

On the 14th we first went into our new 
trenches. The Indians had just left 
them; they were in fair condition, but a lot 
of work was wanting on them. We started 
in the right sector just north of Neuve 

The system was that one did two days in 
the front line, then two in farm houses at 
Riez Bailleul, and so on for twelve days, 
when one came back to reserve for six, 
either to La Gorgue or Merville, which was 
a little further back; and then back to the 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

other sector (Laventie), and this system 
went on all that winter till we moved to 
Ypres. It was quite the quietest time we 
ever had in the war, and it was only be- 
cause we stirred things up a bit that there 
was any liveliness at all . It was a pleasant 
change after the earlier part of the year; 
the mud was bad, but never got really out 
of hand; we worked incessantly on the 
trenches, and they were really excellent, 
particularly the Laventie sector. 

While in this sector battalions used to 
billet in Laventie, only some 1,000 yards 
behind the front line, in complete safety; 
the houses were nearly all intact, and the 
place full of inhabitants. I remember once 
marching to church with drums beating; 
that such things were possible so close 
showed how placid the Germans were at 
this time and place. 

This winter the idea of raids into the 
enemy's lines first came into prominence, 
and there was always the chance of our be- 
ing ordered to do a raid; so there was con- 
stant patrol work going on trying to find 
the best spot; as a matter of fact, the batta- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

lion never had to do a raid, though the 4th 
Battalion did one, also the 2nd Battalion 
Irish Guards. 

In December we started having New 
Army detachments attached to us for in- 
struction, and we had elements of the 
Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the Wiltshire 
Yeomanry with us during the winter. 

Stanhope took over command of No. 2 
Company in the middle of December. Stew- 
art getting a job at Havre. 

We spent Christmas Day at Riez Bail- 
leul. and cheerfully enough. 

W. Parker joined the Company at the 
end of December. 

We had a battalion dinner on New Year's 
Eve in the Town Hall at Merville, and we 
started the New Year off in the approved 

On January 9th our next door neigh- 
bours, the 20th Division, did a gas attack 
at night, and it was rather an interesting 

On the 12th we had what was called a 
divisional demonstration, consisting of an 
artillery barrage and the firing of ten 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

rounds rapid per man the whole length of 
the divisional front; it being all part of the 
idea of keeping up the offensive spirit, and 
also to find out exactly where the enemy 
would put down his counter barrage. 

In the middle of the month Colonel Corry 
left us to command a Brigade, and Colonel 
Jeffreys, who had just left the 2nd Batta- 
lion, also to command a Brigade, came to 
us for a week while waiting for his vacan- 
cy, and until such time as our new com- 
manding officer should arrive. 

On the 18th Colonel Sergison Brooke, 
who had been Brigade Major of the 2nd 
Guards' Brigade, and afterwards on a 
Corps Staff, arrived to command. 

On the 27th, which was the Kaiser's 
birthday, a day which always caused 
" wind " among the authorities, our artil- 
lery put down a barrage at 5 a.m., as a 
damper to the German in case he should 
have planned a visit to our trenches as part 
of the All Highest's birthday celebrations. 

On February 5th the battalion was called 
upon to give an exhibition of drill before 
an eminent Russian statesman (I forget his 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

name) who was visiting the Western front; 
he was not a soldier, so I doubt if he knew 
our bad points from our good ! 

On the 10th Ralph Parker, of No. 4 Com- 
pany, was wounded by one of our own 
bayonets jumping into a trench on return- 
ing from a patrol, tod I was lent to that 
company under Napoleon Vaughan. 

On the 16th February our long tenure of 
this piece of country came to an end, and 
the 9th Battalion Eoyal Welsh Fusiliers 
(58th Brigade, 19th Division) relieved us; 
and we returned to La Gorgue preparatory 
to going north, and so our winter cam- 
paign came to an end. It had not been 
particularly eventful; but we were at it all 
the time, always more or less in danger, 
and the cold and wet was trying at times, 
but, as I have said before, it was our mild- 
est job. 



YPRES, 1916 

ON February 19th we started north, stop- 
ping en route at Eecke, and then on to 

On March 5th we left for training at Cal- 
ais, each Brigade going there in turn; we 
were under canvas., and it was none too 

Sir Douglas Haig inspected the 2nd 
Guards' Brigade on the 6th. 

On the 12th we had a race meeting on the 

Hard training in the morning, and foot- 
ball, etc., in the afternoon filled up our time 
till we left on the 17th en route for Ypres. 

We stopped on the way at Oudezeele, a 
small village at the foot of Cassel Hill, 
which was the most prominent feature of 
that part of the country, and where Gen- 
eral Plumer had his headquarters. 

On the 20th we left for Poperinghe, 
where we were in reserve for six days. 
Poperinghe had been a good deal knocked 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

about since I last saw it, early in 1915, but 
was still a good town, with plenty of in- 
habitants; one rather expected a shell to 
arrive any moment, but it was marvellous 
how little it got shelled, except round the 
railway station. 

On the 26th the battalion left for that 
dreaded place, Ypres; the Salient always 
had a nasty reputation, and well it deserv- 
ed it; however quiet things were elsewhere, 
there was always something doing here. 
Merely holding the salient cost us thous- 
ands of casualties, but the moral effect of 
withdrawing would have been bad, and so 
we had to endure that horrible " Salient 
feeling," and put up with those shells that 
seemed to come almost from behind, and 
all the hundred and one minor horrors of 
this hell on earth. 

And so it was with no light heart that we 
took up our place in the Ypres Salient; we 
knew what to expect, and we got it. 

Well, we got up to Ypres all right. Most 
of the battalion were actually in the town, 
in cellars ; there were a few houses in which 
one could have lived on the ground floor, 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

but it wasn't really safe, as shells were 
flying about all the time; I was sent a mile 
or two further on to hold an earthwork 
called the Potijde defences with two plat- 
oons. Potijde was a small village with a 
chateau which furnished the Battalion 
H.Q. for the front line battalion, in this 
case the 1st Battalion Scots Guards. 

We soon got a taste of the charms of the 
Salient; the Germans had all the observa- 
tion there, and must have had very highly 
trained troops opposite us; our slightest 
movement was detected and sniped, not 
with rifles, but with 4.2 howitzers ! Here 
we were some 1,500 yards from the front, 
but one couldn't move a yard by day; I re- 
member seeing an optimistic officer, evi- 
dently returning from leave, marching 
gaily up the Potijde road with his servant 
behind carrying his valise, and the Ger- 
mans as near as anything got them with 
the opening shot; after that they proceeded 
with more caution. One of my men jump- 
ed out of the trench for one moment to fetch 
something in, and quick as lightning came 
a 4.2 shell, missing him by inches. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

I didn't enjoy this place much, especially 
as it was a reserve position, and our next 
move was to be forward. However, after 
two nights. Worsley relieved me, and I 
joined the rest of the company in Ypres; 
they had a beautifully furnished cellar, 
and I got a good rest there before going up 
to the front line. 

Ypres was a very different place to what 
it had been when I last saw it in April, 
1915; all the civilians had gone; there 
hadn't been many there since the gas at- 
tack in May. Every house had been hit, 
the part round the square was completely 
destroyed; the western-most part had got 
off lightest, and the prison was still more 
or less a building. Shells fell in the town 
every day, especially at dusk, when it was 
hoped to catch our transport coming up. 

We had quite a lot of troops there, but 
they all lived below ground, except for a 
few adventurous souls who used to go on 
souvenir hunting expeditions. I used to 
get in for some of these, but was always 
glad to return to earth again. 

We first started wearing the steel helmet 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

at this time, and very heavy and uncom- 
fortable it felt at first. 

On the night 30th-31st March, a night 
never to be forgotten, though it produced 
no actual battle movement, the battalion 
moved to relieve the Scots Guards. There 
had been heavy firing all day, and at one 
time the relief was postponed, as it was 
thought an attack was imminent. How- 
ever, the shelling ceased, only to start 
again just as we were reaching our posi- 

My company was to be in support in the 
line just in front of Potijde, with No. 1 on 
our right and 3 and 4 in the front line. We 
found the Scots Guards in a bad dish way; 
they had endured a terrible shelling all the 
afternoon, and the trenches were full of 
their dead. The company we relieved was 
commanded by Sir Ian Colquhoun, a man 
of unusual fearlessness; he had taken up a 
position under the parapet, and he told us 
,that that particular portion had remained 
intact all day, and he advised us to make 
it our H.Q., which we did. 

The shelling at this time was severe, but 


Reminiscences ol a Grenadier 

worse in front, and our front companies 
found no trenches to hold; they had all 
been blown in, and very few men to relieve; 
they had all been killed or wounded; but 
they took up a position among the shell 
holes, and started reconsolidating. 

The shelling eased off a bit, and eventu- 
ally we only got a quarter of an hour in- 
tense in every hour, starting punctually at 
.the hour, so we knew what and when to 
expect it. At 4.15 it stopped altogether, 
and our guns, which had been strangely 
silent, began and fired hard for an hour and 
a half. Their previous silence was ex- 
plained by the fact that they were waiting 
to deal with the attack which certainly 
seemed to be coming; all the gunners were 
"standing to" ready all night. 

It was a bad night, and we wondered if 
it was a typical Ypres night or merely a 
welcome from the Boche; mercifully it 
proved to be the latter, and we found after 
that the welcome had been extended to the 
whole of the Guards' Divisional front. We 
had many dirty nights in the Salient later 
on, but never one as dirty as this one. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

We spent the quieter moments digging 
out the trenches, and getting the dead and 
wounded Scotsmen away. We had a good 
many casualties, too; I had been ordered to 
bring the ration party up in the rear of the 
company, and on getting to the trench I 
found most of my platoon lying in the road 
groaning; a big shell had pitched right in 
the middle of them just as they were going 
to turn into the trench, and all three ser- 
geants of the platoon were hit, one eventu- 
ally dying. 

Two days later we moved to the front 
line; this was still in a dreadful state, 
though our No. 4 Company, under Alfred 
Yorke, had done wonders, and it, at any 
rate, looked like a defensive position. It 
was very wet and muddy, and altogether 

Next morning, while I was having a bit 
of rest in the so-called dug-out, a piece of 
corrugated iron stretched across sand- 
bags, what was known as the Pilkem gun 
started firing; it fired at us enfilade, and 
slap do^\i our trench; the first shot missed 
our H.Q. by inches, and made an enormous 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

hole exactly where Dick Stanhope had been 
having a wash a few minutes before, and 
where he had left his soap and towels. On 
hearing the explosion he came rushing 
back to rescue, not his young officers, but 
his towel ! or so we always told him after- 
wards. He was wonderful all this time, 
quite unconcerned, and seemed to be enjoy- 
ing it all; he and Worsley were the other 
officers in the company; they were both 
killed later in the war. 

The system in this part of the line was 
sixteen days in the forwards area (two in 
front and two in Ypres, and so on), and 
then eight in reserve at Poperinghe, and 
then back into the next sector. Thus we 
stayed up till the llth, when the 1st Bri- 
gade relieved us. 

We had had a fairly quiet time after our 
start, and had been busy draining and dig- 
ging out the trenches, and had got them 
more or less inhabitable again. 

Just before we were relieved by the 3rd 
Battalion Coldstream, trouble broke out on 
our left, the Germans doing a daylight raid 
on the 20th Division under a very heavy 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

barrage of trench mortars and artillery. 
Things looked rather bad there, and one 
wondered if it would spread to us, but by 
dark all was quiet, and our relief went off 
peacefully enough. 

We had eight days in Poperinghe, and 
enjoyed them thoroughly; what those 
periods of rest meant to us in those days 
no one can imagine who has not had a bad 
time in the front line; they were invaluable, 
and just kept one going. There were cine- 
mas and pierrot shows to go to; among the 
latter the 6th Division "Fancies" were 
quite excellent, and played to a crowded 
house every evening; then we used to have 
dinner parties, and generally tried to be as 
civilised as we could. 

On the 19th we were due to return to 
Ypres. Just before we were to leave Pop- 
eringhe a heavy bombardment started in 
front, and the relief was postponed for a 
time, but we ' 'stood by" ready for any 
emergency. Late at night we went off, and 
reached our cellars in Ypres without 
calamity. The noise of the evening of the 
19th was the Germans doing an attack at 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

the junction of the Guards' Division and 
,the 6th Division at Wieltje; our 4th Batta- 
lion and the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards 
were involved in this, and the net result 
was that the 6th Division lost a small piece 
of trench, which, however, they regained 
by a counter attack on the night of the 

On the 24th the battalion relieved the 1st 
Battalion Scots Guards in the front system, 
my company being in reserve in the canal 
bank. This bank was lined with dug-outs 
of varying sizes and importance; Brigad- 
iers lived there, sapper officers, gunners, 
every type of front line soldier; it was a 
perfect hub. 

The 2nd Brigade held the line till the 5th 
May; there were a few excitements during 
that time; the Germans came up and bomb- 
ed our company's front one night, and 
there was a good deal of noise, and a few 
people were hit, but it didn't come to much. 
On the 3rd the 3rd Guards' Brigade on our 
right blew up a mine at Railway Wood, and 
a good deal of shelling resulted. Then 
Brig.-Gen. Heyworth was killed a day or 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

two after, being sniped on his way up to the 
front line. 

On the 9th Stanhope went on leave, and 
for the first time I was entrusted with the 
command of the company. 

We were back again at Ypres on the 12th, 
and in the front lines at Potijze on the 16th. 
It was much quieter during this tour of 
duty, and I remember bragging to the 
Commanding Officer (Colonel Brooke) that 
not a German shell had come into our 
trench during the whole time we were 

On the 21st the Guards' Division was re- 
lieved by the 20th Division ; we were reliev- 
ed by the 12th Battalion Rifle Brigade. 

We had managed to put in a lot of work 
on the trenches, and the officer of the Rifle 
Brigade, who relieved me,, said he had no 
idea such good trenches existed or could 
exist in the Ypres Salient. 

The Division went back to rest for a 
month, and I went on ten days' leave. I 
went off straight from the front line, and a 
machine gun shot at me all the way down 
the road from Potijze to Ypres, and I re- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

member wondering if the Germans were 
going to stop my leave ! 

I rejoined the battalion on the 3rd June 
at Volkeringhove, where they were still 
resting. On the 4th we had the annual 
Eton dinner, there being thirty or forty of 
us from the 2nd Guards' Brigade, presided 
over by Brig. -Gen. John Ponsonby. This 
took place in the school, and may claim to 
have been a success. 

During this rest we were to practise a 
projected attack on the Pilkem ridge; the 
possession of this ridge by the Germans 
was always a trouble to us, and it was 
thought the moment had arrived to dis- 
possess them of it. Thus we dug an exact 
copy of the trenches there, and put in imi- 
tation farms, etc., and practised every day 
this rather intricate problem. As a matter 
of fact, this attack didn't come off till a 
year later (July 31st, 1917). 

Our month's rest was nearing its allotted 
end, and we were getting used to the idea 
of returning to the Salient and capturing 
the Pilkem ridge on the north side; but on 
the 14th we were suddenly sent for to the 


Reminiscences ot a Grenadier 

south side of the Salient, and we left in 
lorries post haste to Vlamertinghe. 


THE trouble this time was on the Canadian 
front at Hooge; the Germans had attacked 
strongly from Hooge on the north to about 
Hill 60 on the south, including in this the 
famous Sanctuary Wood; they gained some 
ground, and though a comparatively small 
battle, it had been particularly fierce, and 
the shelling had been terrific; the Canadi- 
ans later carried out a fine counter-attack 
and regained all the important points lost. 
The position was obscure to us when we 
started off in our lorries, and we didn't 
know what we might be called on to do. 
However, we had a night at Vlamertinghe 
in a camp, and it then transpired that the 
2nd Guards' Brigade was to relieve the 
Canadian Division for a week, so that they 
might have a chance of reorganising them- 
selves. I gather the Guards' Division vol- 
unteered to send help, and I remember, al- 
though the task wasn't any too pleasant, 
we felt gratified at being able to lend a help- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

ing hand to our Colonial friends for whose 
fighting abilities we had such great 

On the 15th the battalion moved forward 
to the south side of Ypres; three companies 
were round the Zillebeke Bund (or lake), 
and the remaining one in the remains of 
the cavalry barracks in Ypres; my com- 
pany was the latter. Next night there were 
constant alarms, there was terrific artillery 
fire all night, and several rumoured gas at- 
.tacks; the company was "standing to" 
practically all night. 

It was a wonderful night, and the shell- 
ing was a wonderful sight, looked at from 
the ramparts of the city, a semi-circular 
line of flame from one end of the salient to 
the other. Nothing tangible resulted, and 
there was no attack. 

On the 18th we went into the front line 
in Sanctuary Wood, just in front of Zille- 
beke village. Sanctuary Wood was a 
dreadful place, a perfect shambles; dead 
Germans and dead Canadians everywhere; 
the trenches were only about three feet 
deep, and it was well-nigh impossible to 


Reminiscences oi a Grenadier 

dig deeper owing to the bodies and debris. 
There was one particularly gruesome dug- 
out where some half-dozen Germans were 
sitting, just opening a parcel; they were all 
unwounded, but all dead, apparently gas- 
sed during our counter attack. 

I was put in the front line of all with two 
platoons, with Heasman under me; Stan- 
hope and Thrupp were behind with the 
rest of the company. I shall never forget 
Sanctuary Wood if I live to the age of 
Methusaleh. It was mid-summer, and 
light for nineteen out of the twenty-four 
hours; thus for nineteen hours per day one 
couldn't move a muscle, but just lay at the 
bottom of the trench, getting shelled by 
5.9 shells which traversed the trench at in- 
tervals; if it hadn't been for two bottles of 
port which we had contrived to bring up 
with us, I think our morale would have en- 
tirely departed. The trench was stuffed 
full of men, and we were all sitting in each 
other's laps. I luckily found myself next 
to the company wag, one Tonge, whose wit 
became more intense as the situation grew 
worse; men like him were invaluable at 


Reminiscences oi a Grenadier 

times like this. 

So we lived for three days; at night 
everyone got up and walked about No- 
man's-land to stretch their legs. The Ger- 
man infantry were very quiet, but their 
gunners were all too active. Herbert 
Eaton, in the next company (No. 1) was 
blown up by a shell here, and was lucky 
not to be worse hit. 

On the 21st the Canadians returned, and 
the 42nd Canadian Highlanders relieved 

After this we returned to our sector, in 
the northern half, where we were due to 
relieve the 1st Guards' Brigade. How- 
ever, we were rested till the 28th. 

At this time the great offensive down 
south, which everyone had been thinking 
of, if not exactly talking about, for a long 
time, was getting ready to start; and we 
were told that there would be "an intense 
fortnight " in the Ypres Salient as a diver- 
sion to prevent reinforcements being sent 
to the Somme. 

An all-day bombardment was fixed for 
the 1st of July, and a raid by the 2nd Batta- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

lion Irish Guards for the 2nd, various 
minor demonstrations were to follow. 

We got into the front line on the 30th. 
We were now the left of the British Army, 
with the French next to us. 

Next morning we got ready for the big 
bombardment. I think we expected one 
continuous roar all day long, so it was a 
trifle disappointing, and although a good 
quantity of stuff was despatched to Ger- 
many, it didn't strike one as being a 
particularly noteworthy display; the Ger- 
mans retaliated, of course, and we had a 
pretty lively time dodging shells. 

The Irish Guards' raid was a more im- 
portant operation. I think its object was 
chiefly to keep the Germans alert on our 
front and thus help the big battle; also, 
prisoners were required for identification 
purposes. The raid was to be carried out 
by about a platoon of volunteers under Lt. 
Francis Pym ; who was a particular friend 
of mine, with whom I had shared rooms 
before the war. The raid took place just 
as it was getting dark, under cover of a 
hurricane bombardment; from all accounts 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

it was successful, and after a confused 
fight in the German trench, some prisoners 
were brought back to our lines, but the 
Irishmen suffered heavily from the shell- 
fire, and had heavy casualties, including 
Pym, whose exact fate remains a mystery 
to this day; he was seen to be doing magni- 
ficently in the German trench, and left with 
the party at the conclusion of the operation, 
but was never seen again, nor was any sign 
or trace of him ever discovered. 

We were just on the left of all this, and 
got in for the retaliating shelling, an hour 
of the best. It was dark, so the Germans 
had no observation, and luckily their 
shooting was a bit wild, and we had no 
casualties, though it was a miracle. 

We were in and out of the front line till 
the 14th, when the 3rd Brigade relieved us. 
Nothing much happened the usual shell- 
ings and the usual weariness. On the 
evening of the 12th the Germans shelled 
the Canal bridges heavily, and one thought 
for a time that they were trying to cut our 
communications with the other side, pre- 
paratory to raiding us, but nothing hap- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

pened. . i 

We returned then to camp in what was 
known as A. 30 Forest, owing to its position 
on the map; it was some three miles east of 
Poperinghe. Here we rested, drilled and 
played cricket, etc. 

On the 21st we had a Brigade cricket 
match, Old Etonians v. The World, on a 
matting wicket, with occasional shells 
bursting round; the former won fairly 

That evening the Brigadier (Gen. Pon- 
sonby) gave a party at his hut to the officers 
of his Brigade; the Scots Guards' band 
played, and the place was lit up with lan- 
terns, and the refreshments were good and 
plentiful ; we danced with each other vigor- 
ously, and altogether it was a pleasant 
diversion from the ordinary sort of life. 

On the 23rd we should have gone up to 
relieve the 1st Brigade, but it was cancel- 
led, and rumours of a move south became 

It had been rather a disappointment to 
think that the Battle of the Somme should 
be fought without the Brigade of Guards 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Baking part in. it, the only big battle in the 
war missed by them; so when we were told 
we were going off to take part in this battle, 
we were pleased, and anyway, a change 
from the Salient seemed a good idea. 

So on the 25th July we bid a temporary 
good-bye to the Salient (we were destined to 
return next year), and went to Volkering- 
hove to concentrate for the movement 




WE stayed at Volkeringhove till the 29th, 
during which time we trained, and also had 
Battalion Sports. 

The battalion was in very good fettle 
now, and keen to have another proper fight 
with the Germans after so many months of 
trench warfare. 

There had been a few changes among the 
officers, and the companies, when we left 
for the Somme, were commanded by (1) 
Wolridge Gordon, (2) Stanhope, (3) Hopley, 
(4) Mackenzie. Colonel Brooke still com- 
manded, with Major Rasch second in com- 
mand, and Oliver Lyttleton adjutant. 

We entrained on the 20th at Bollezeele, 
and travelling all night, arrived at a little 
place called Petit Houin, not far from St. 
Pol. Here we detrained and marched 
some way to La Souich; it was a very hot 
day, and the march was somewhat trying. 
La Souich is a pretty little place close to 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

We did not stay there long, leaving for 
the forward area on the 1st, having dinners 
and bathing at Loucheux en route. We 
went on in lorries to the Courcelles au Bois 
area; this place was some three miles from 
the front line. 

For some time the authorities seemed un- 
decided where to use us, and w r e moved 
about from place to place doing various 
jobs until we finally settled more or less on 
the British right wing. 

We bivouacked at Courcelles; the 
weather was frightfully hot, and there was 
practically no shade, so we weren't very 
comfortable there. 

We used to go up to the front line every 
night to dig trenches for the 20th Division, 
the idea then being that we should eventu- 
ally take over that part of the line and at- 
tack from there. This was the extreme 
left of the original attack on July 1st, and 
here the attack had failed. 

We continued digging up till the 6th, and 
really made some extraordinarily fine 
trenches for the other Division to live in; 
they, I think, were amazed at the work 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

done in so short a time. We got shelled 
from time to time, but the worst danger was 
from trench mortars, which were rather 
active just here. Their bombs were par- 
ticularly annoying, as they can't be heard 
coming, and they explode with unusual 

It was tiring work, as it was so hot in the 
day, and the flies so tiresome that one 
couldn't sleep much; the actual trenches 
we worked on were near La Signy Farm, 
and just in front of Colincamps village. 

On the 7th we left to camp in the Bois de 
Warnimont, a big wood some four miles 
further back. 

We expected to be here some time, but on 
the 9th the Brigade was ordered forward 
again to take over the trenches at Beau- 
mont Hamel, south of where we had been. 
The battalion was in reserve to start with, 
first at Beaussart and then at Bertran- 
court, just behind; on the 13th we left for 
the front line, passing en route through the 
villages of Mailly-Maillet and Auchenvil- 
lers, both rather shelly places. 

The Beaumont Hamel trenches were 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

wonderfully good, with deep dug-outs, 
luxuries unheard of at Ypres, and alto- 
gether we seemed to be in for a fairly peace- 
ful time there, the only difficulty being 
finding one's way about in the maze of 

Next day we were told there was to be a 
gas attack on our front; gas was already 
installed on our front; if the wind was fav- 
ourable we were to let it off. The place 
swarmed with gas experts from various 
H.Q.'s in the rear. I'm afraid we didn't 
welcome them much, as we knew the only 
result we should see of the gas attack would 
be a good sound shelling from the Germans. 
Everything was arranged, and we made 
gas-proof dug-outs in case there were any 
accidents to our men in letting it off; there 
was to be an accompanying bombardment 
of some intensity. 

At the critical moment the wind chang- 
ed, and the show was off, except for the 
bombardment, which took place as adver- 
tised. We got some back, of course, but it 
wasn't very alarming. 

Next day we were suddenly told we were 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

to be relieved by another Division; so the 
8th Batt. Bedford Regiment came up in the 
evening of the 15th, and we left to bivouac 
near Mailly-Maillet. 

We were not destined to stay there long, 
as next day we moved back to Bertran- 
court, and the day after to Sailly-au-Bois, 
which was the next village to Courcelles, 
where we had been before. 

The 2nd Guards' Brigade had been order- 
ed to hold the front here for four days, but 
as we had done more work than the other 
battalions up to date, it didn't take us to 
go further up than Sailly. which was about 
three miles behind the front; but all the 
same it was not exactly a bed of roses there, 
and we very narrowly missed what would 
have been perhaps our worst calamity of 
the war from the officer point of view. 

Our bivouac was situated just west of the 
ruined village of Sailly . and just behind us 
was a battery of heavy guns; both of these 
were favourite targets for the German gun- 
ners, and it soon became apparent that we 
had been given a most unhealthy place to 
live in. All the officers messed together 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

under a large tarpaulin sheet, and we had 
all assembled for lunch on our first day 
there, when a large shell was heard 
approaching. It just skimmed over the 
tarpaulin and burst a few yards over; just 
those few yards shorter, and it would have 
left the 3rd Battalion officerless. This shell 
was the first of a hurricane bombardment 
of our bivouac, and the whole battalion had 
to clear out for some time till peace was 
restored. The same thing happened that 
evening about 8 p.m., so we were ordered 
to change our position, and we went into a 
valley a few hundred yards off, where we 
remained unmolested, and had the plea- 
sure of watching our old home being daily 

It is most unpleasant being shelled in a 
camp or bivouac, and there was much con- 
sternation in the officers' mess, particularly 
to one newly joined ensign with some culin- 
ary attainments who was busy cooking a 
kidney omelette at the time; he was put to 
flight in his shirt-sleeves, and the omelette 
left to spoil. 

On the 20th we were the unwilling wit- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

nesses of the tragedy of Basil Hallam. We 
were amusing ourselves that evening play- 
ing rounders, when we saw an observation 
balloon approaching rapidly from the west, 
apparently broken away from its moorings. 
It was making straight for the German 
lines. Next we saw a dark object fall from 
the balloon; it didn't seem to us at the time 
that it was a man, but so it proved to be; 
the body fell just in the village of Sailly-au- 
Bois, and was found to be Hallam, who had 
been in charge of a Balloon Section at 
Couin just behind us; he had apparently 
had some trouble with his parachute; his 
sergeant, more lucky, reached the ground 

On the 21st we got on the move again, 
going to a hut camp at Bus-les-Artois. 
After two nights there we were ordered 
south, to the right of the British line, going 
via Ampliers and Naours, both in the Doul- 
lens district, and then by train via Amiens 
to Morlancourt, where we stayed for about 
a fortnight training. 

Morlancourt was a long, straggling vil- 
lage, and remarkably dirty; troops had 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

been there continuously, and had never 
bothered to clean up before moving; result, 
flies everywhere and general unhealthi- 
ness. But it wasn't a bad place once we 
got settled in, and we were allowed in 
Amiens occasionally, and on the whole we 
rather enjoyed ourselves there, and it was 
well that we did so, as for so many of us it 
was our last experience of this world; for 
that dread 15th of September was close 
upon us, a day when the Brigade of Guards 
suffered as it had never suffered before, 
and, please God, may never suffer again. 

Thus, Morlancourt remains a pleasant 

Since we left the Ypres Salient, new offi- 
cers had arrived, among them Hirst (who 
had been wounded at Hohenzollern Ke- 
doubt), St. J. Williams, Stainton, Cornish, 
Gardiner, Penfold, and Gassy; the com- 
pany commanders remained the same. 

We made particular friends here with the 
officers of the 2nd Guards' Brigade 
Machine Gun Company; there were nine of 
them altogether, and not one of them es- 
caped on the 15th, seven being killed and 

1 10 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

two wounded; a nicer lot of fellows were 
never to be found. 

We practised attacking behind a creep- 
ing barrage here, the drums being used to 
represent shells bursting. The field days 
happened daily till the 9th, when we moved 
up to a big valley known as Happy Valley. 

The Tanks made their first appearance 
here, and were parked together in a field, 
and caused much excitement. 

The part the Brigade was to play in the 
great battle now at last became apparent; 
desultory fights had been going on all the 
time, the Irish troops doing especially gal- 
lant deeds and suffering heavily. Guille- 
mont village took a lot of capturing, and for 
about a week the battle raged for its posses- 
sion; the carnage was terrible, and we got 
an inkling of what might happen to us 
when we saw battalions marching back to 
rest, the strength of small companies. 

It was on the 9th September, if I remem- 
ber right, that Ginchy was captured, the 
Irish Division being relieved by the 3rd 
Guards' Brigade in the evening; the village 
had not been completely cleared, and the 


Reminiscences oi a Grenadier 

3rd Brigade had work to do on their way 
up to relieve, 

The 3rd Brigade (to be in reserve for the 
big battle) held the line till the 13th, and 
had a hard time, the Germans counter at- 
tacking several times, but to no purpose, 
the 1st Battalion and the Welsh Guards 
particularly distinguishing themselves. 

The 2nd Guards' Brigade had meantime 
moved forward to the Carnoy area, and on 
the 13th the 1st Battalion Scots and 2nd 
Battalion Irish Guards relieved the frojit 
line, the 1st Battalion Coldstream and our- 
selves, who were to be in the front line of 
the attack, remaining in bivouacs at Car- 

We left one officer per company out of the 
attack, and it fell to my lot to be left out, 
the others being Bowes-Lyon, Ralph 
Parker (both killed later in the war), and 
Neville; added to these were Guy Rasch, 
the second in command, and Duquenoy, 
the transport officer. We were left behind 
at Happy Valley when the battalion left for 
Carnoy, but we used to ride up and see 
them every day. On the morning of the 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

15th the "embusques," as we called our- 
selves, moved up in front of Carnoy village 
ready to go up to the fight if required. 

The battalion left Carnoy bivouac on the 
evening of the 14th, and it wasn't pleasant 
watching them go off. 

The attack was timed for 6.20 next morn- 
ing, and proved one of the most difficult but 
gallant affairs of the whole war. Tanks 
were used for the first time; there was no 
preliminary bombardment as at Loos and 
elsewhere, and all was quiet till zero hour. 

The attack on the Guards' Division front 
was entrusted to the 1st and 2nd Guards' 
Brigades, with the 2nd and 3rd Battalions 
Coldstream of the 1st Brigade, and the 1st 
Battalion Coldstream and ourselves in the 
front line, the supporting battalions, i.e., 
2nd Batt. Grenadier, 1st Batt. Irish, the 1st 
Batt. Scots Guards, and 2nd Batt. Irish 
were quite close behind, and became in- 
volved almost at once. 

It was a terrible fight; the 6th Division 
on our immediate right were held up by 
machine gun fire from an earthwork 
known as the Quadrilateral, and didn't ad- 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

vance at all; this left our right in the air, 
but did not stop our advance, nor did the 
storm of machine gun bullets which greet- 
ed the attack; the final objective was Les- 
bceufs village, but it was only possible, 
owing to the exposed flank, to reach the 
second objective, short of the village. 

I was not present myself, as I have al- 
ready explained, so have no personal im- 
pressions of this day, but I gather that it 
was quite the worst battle of the war. The 
Division is reputed to have had 6,000 casu- 
alties in these few hours' fighting, all batta- 
lions losing about 60 per cent, of their effec- 
tives, and some 80 or 90 per cent, of their 
officers. We (the 3rd Battalion) lost some 
380 men and 18 out of the 21 officers. 

The 3rd Guards' Brigade, originally in 
reserve, was ordered to form a defensive 
flank on our right. We had ten officers 
killed Allan Mackenzie, Dick Stanhope, 
Wynne, Gunnis, Gardiner, Stainton, E. 
Worsley, Raymond Asquith, Jackson, and 
Logan, the Medical Officer and 8 wound- 
edCol. Brooke, Williams, Thrupp, Cor- 
nish, Whitehead, Chainpneys, John Hop- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

ley, and Cassy; the only ones to escape un- 
touched being Wolridge Gordon, Lyttelton, 
and Hirst. The latter was at first reported 
killed, and I remember sending his kit 
away from the tent allotted to him, when 
he turned up with the remains of the com- 
pany and none the worse. 

As to my part in the battle, our little 
party remained near Carnoy, hearing the 
most awful rumours of disaster, and only 
too true generally. A steady gloom des- 
cended on us. and I doubt if I have ever 
spent a more miserable day. 

The battalion was relieved on the night 
of the 16th-l7th, and came back to a camp 
at a place called the Citadel, not far from 
Fricourt. It was sad work seeing them 
come in with ranks so depleted; it had been 
such a magnificent battalion, everyone so 
keen, and trained up to a " T." 

Next day, Sunday, the remains of the 
Brigade paraded together for church par- 
ade, and later the Brigadier (John Ponson- 
by) saw the battalion and thanked them 
for what they had done. 

Reinforcements arrived, and we became 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

a full battalion once more; Eric Anson 
(wounded at Loos) returned, and Aubrey 
Hall arrived. 

Before long it was rumoured that we 
were " for it " again, and it transpired that 
there was to be another attack to capture 
Lesboeufs on the 25th. 

On the 20th we moved up to Carnoy 
again to a bivouac which was rather apt to 
be shelled by long range naval guns. 

In this battle the 1st and 3rd Brigades 
were in the front lines, and our Brigade in 
reserve; the battalion was in Corps reserve, 
and might be used on any part of the 14th 
Corps front. As it turned out, the battle 
was a complete success, and the 2nd Bri- 
gade was not used at all. Lesboeufs was 
captured, as also was Morval (by the 5th 

Next day we moved up to Trones Wood, 
and the Scots Guards went up to relieve 
at Lesbceufs 

On the 27th my company had the un- 
pleasant job of burying the dead. We had 
to bury the dead lying out in the open in 
front of Ginchy, at the spot where the at- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

tack on the 15th had started; the weather 
was hot, and they had been lying out 
twelve days, and were almost all turned 
jet black; we buried that morning some 200 
men, rather more Germans than English; 
it was a nasty fatigue, and I won't dwell 
more on it. 

On the 28th we relieved the Scots Guards 
in front of Lesboeufs; we had a long and 
weary walk up there in pitch darkness, 
falling into shell holes, etc., and shelled 
most of the way, but we got there, and 
found our company had to hold a sunken 
road; this road seemed a perfect inferno 
shells everywhere. 

I had previously been detailed for a 
patrol. Our job was to advance, in con- 
junction with patrols from the whole Divi- 
sion, 750 yards towards the enemy, dig in 
there, and stay next day there, when the 
remainder of the battalion would come up 
and consolidate. 

Well, it didn't sound a very pretty job to 
me, and I remember thinking my number 
was probably up. But as I had escaped 
the two preceding battles it was certainly 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

my turn for something dirty. 

I had twelve men and a sergeant; the 
latter I selected specially as the bravest and 
most efficient in the company, Sgt. A. E. 
Smith, a man who stood out by himself 
either on parade or in the trenches. So off 
we went, along another sunken road lead- 
ing to Le Transloy, Sgt. Smith counting the 
paces as we went. We proceeded with due 
precautions, with point and flankers out; 
there was no opposition, and on completing 
our 750 paces we lined out and proceeded 
to dig. We were promptly shelled by our 
own side, and I decided to go 50 yards back, 
where we luckily found some partly dug 
rifle pits which we proceeded to improve; 
it was very hard work, the ground being 
like iron, and we had no picks with us. I 
fixed on my H.Q. in the bank of the sunken 
road, and put my servant on to scooping 
out a little place in the bank for us to spend 
next day in, and if possible sleep in. 

It was a nightmare, that night; German 
shells were falling just over us all night 
long, our own from the other direction do- 
ing the same; the whole fury of the battle 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

seemed to concentrate on us. 

However, we got on with the work pretty 
well, and by dawn had made ourselves a 
place to live in. I had just given the order 
to resume "day conditions, 5 ' or, in other 
words, get into the trench and settle down 
for the day, when our own field guns start- 
ed a terrific and most accurate bombard- 
ment of our new position. I was slightly 
wounded, as were two of the men. The 
thing looked awkward; there was a thick 
mist, and no immediate way of communi- 
cating with the battery firing on us, even if 
we knew which it was. I sent a man back 
to the company H.Q. to report the position, 
and then returned to my place in the sunk- 
en road to see the extent of the damage 
done to myself. 

The shelling stopped and all was quiet, 
except for German shells falling on our 
main lines, so I decided I would go and 
have my wound looked at and then return; 
so off I went, back to Company H.Q., with 
my servant, as near as anything being pick- 
ed off by a German shell en route. 

On arriving at C.H.Q. I first drank a 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

whole bottle of beer, and then had my 
wound, which was quite small, tied up : I 
was told to go back to the Battalion Aid 
Post, as it was thought there was a piece 
of shell still in. Before I left, a belated 
message arrived ordering my patrol to 
come in about three hours before. 

On my way down I met the Commanding 
Officer (Lt.-Col. Thome, who had succeed- 
ed Col. Brooke) with some staff officers, 
and explained the situation to him; it ap- 
peared our gunners had been ordered to 
barrage a certain ridge, but had got on to 
the wrong one, thus disturbing us. 

I went on by various stages to hospital 
at Le Touquet, stopping en route at a 
C.C.S. at Bray-sur-Somme. My wound 
was nothing really, and soon healed, and 
on October 6th I left hospital fit, and was 
sent to the Guards' Division Base Depot at 

Here I had a very pleasant rest, the Base, 
under the regime of Colonel Royds, Scots 
Guards, being one of the pleasantest places 
on the Western front, and a very Heaven 
after the Somme battlefield. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

I got some leave during this time, and 
eventually rejoined the battalion on the 
24th November at the Citadel, Fricourt. 




I FOUND that the battalion had just return- 
ed to the battle area from resting behind at 

I had not missed any fighting or trench 
work. I was greeted by the remark that 
they had been having a wonderful time, 
but that now we looked like having a pretty 
moderate one. 

The battalion was a good deal changed, 
and the company commanders were all 
different, John Craigie commanding No. 
1, Ivor Rose No. 2, Bowling No. 3, and 
Ralph Parker No. '4. I went back to my 
old company, No. 2, the other officers there 
being Hirst and Hall. 

The Citadel was a cheerless place, all 
mud, and it was terribly cold. We slept 
in tents and messed in a tin shed. 

The Germans had been giving trouble on 
the right of our line at Sailly Saillisel, 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

where we joined on to the French, and our 
job was to relieve the French at that place, 
and just hold the line. So, en route for 
Sallly, we left for Abre Forchee camp on 
,the 27th; this was a French hut camp close 
to Bray, and quite good. 

We had just arrived there when I was 
ordered off to the 14th Corps Lewis Gun 
School at Meaulte. So I went off there, and 
finding our 1st Battalion billeted in the vil- 
lage, got leave to live with them instead of 
at the school among complete strangers, 
and I became the guest of Wilfred Dash- 
wood during my five days' course. 

The Lewis gun rather defeated me, but I 
managed to make them think I knew some- 
thing about it, and left without loss of name 
or reputation. 

I rejoined the battalion on December 
2nd. They had meanwhile moved up to 
the front line at Sailly Saillisel. My com- 
pany was in reserve at Haie Wood in dug- 
outs, moderately safe and comfortable; the 
trenches in front were terribly bad, and 
there was an awful lot of work to be done 
on them before they became either inhabit- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

able or defensible. Hence fatigues and 
working parties were innumerable. 

The Germans were pretty active, and 
there were a lot of shells about; they had 
raided the French just as we got up to re- 
lieve them, and they pinched a machine 
gun; but luckily the man carrying it was 
shot on his way home, and we were able to 
recover the gun and give it back to the 
French. The French blamed us for the 
original occurrence, and said we made too 
much noise coming up, thus rousing the 
Germans' curiosity; they were rather cross 
with us really, but the return of their lost 
gun restored the situation ! 

But to return to the trenches; the reserve 
company used to work all night carrying 
wire and stakes, etc., up to the front; tiring 
work in the mud and dark, and not alto- 
gether safe; they put a shell into the tail 
end of the company one night on our way 
home; I was marching in the rear of the 
company, and it killed the men just in 
front of me and wounded two others. It 
was an unpleasant incident; perhaps it was 
luck it didn't happen more frequently. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

On the 5th the reserve company was re- 
lieved by the 1st Batt. Scots Guards, the 
rest of the battalion by our 4th Battalion. 

The Division was now divided into two 
groups, the idea being that by that system 
one got shorter hours of duty in the front 
line, which, owing to the awful condition 
of the trenches, was essential. On the 
other hand, under the new system one al- 
ways seemed to be on the move, never more 
than three days in one place. 

Our group consisted of the 1st, 3rd and 
4th Battalions Grenadier Guards, the 1st 
and 2nd Battalions Scots Guards, and the 
Welsh Guards, and was responsible for the 
left half of the divisional front. 

On relief, we went to Maltzhorn Farm 
camp near Trones Wood; we had a shelly 
march back, taking three hours or more 
altogether. After three hours' solid 
marching one felt one ought to be out of 
range, but it was not so, and we got some 
going through Guillemont village, and 
more on arriving at the camp. The camp 
was filthy, and we only had time to remove 
some of the filth when we had to move back 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

to Bronfay Farm camp, near the Plateau 

This was on the 6th, and on the 9th we 
moved forward once more to Bouleaux 
Wood in reserve. Here we lived very 
crowded in long dug-outs; we were sur- 
rounded with our guns, which were con- 
tinually being shelled, so it was a warmish 

We did wiring fatigues here; the C.O., to 
spur us on in our unpleasant task, offered a 
prize to the company which completed its 
allotted task first; the prize took the form 
of beer, if I remember right; the result was 
that all the companies claimed to have 
won, so the whole battalion got beer ! Any- 
how, some very good wiring was done. 

On the night of the llth-12th we relieved 
our 1st Battalion in the front lines. It took 
Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Companies for the firing line 
this time; Hirst was now commanding No. 
2, Rose having gone to command the new 
Works Battalion; I was the only other offi- 
cler in the company; we shared a deep dug- 
out with No. 3 Company's officers, consist- 
ing of Bowling, Neville, and, I think, Hol- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

bech, who had just joined. 

I had seen bad trenches before, but Sailly 
Saillisel beat all known records. Mud of 
such consistency probably never existed 
elsewhere. Men were literally glued to 
their positions. To get along the company 
front was a physical impossibility; one 
tried, of course, but after having stuck sev- 
eral times, generally gave it up as a bad 
job. Added to this, it was bitterly cold 
and raining hard. Water poured down 
our dug-out steps, and we looked like being 
flooded out; continuous feats of engineering 
prevented this; the men were in a dreadful 
condition, practically speechless with cold, 
and unable to move. After that first night 
and day one really began to wonder what 
would happen, and I really thought we 
should have no men left alive after another 
night, and moreover, we were not to be re- 
lieved till the fourth night. The men 
were, as ever, wonderful, and they saw the 
thing through. I doubt if any men had to 
put up with a sterner test of physical en- 
durance in the whole war. 

We had a good deal of trouble coming up 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

to relieve, men continually getting stuck 
and having to be pulled out; confusion be- 
came worse confounded by a Verey light 
going up just as we were nearing the front 
line, and by some misguided person, said 
to be an officer of another company, order- 
ing one of our platoons to jump into a com- 
munication trench to avoid being seen. I 
arrived with the rear of the company, and 
found them floundering in the morass, and 
it took a considerable time to get them all 
out. Many men lost their gum boots and 
arrived barefooted in the trenches. 

During the second night the company 
commanders decided that they would ask 
if they might be relieved twenty-four hours 
sooner, as things seemed to be becoming so 
desperate for the men; this request was re- 
fused, and eventually it was decided to 
hold the line only in posts, choosing the 
dryer parts of the trench for inhabitation; 
this system worked well, and was, I be- 
lieve, kept up all the rest of our time there. 

I had the shock of my life in the early 
morning of the 13th; a terrific barrage had 
started just on our left, rain was pouring 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

down, the trench was getting rapidly 
worse, and the company was standing to 
arms in case the barrage meant anything. 
Things had never looked so black, when a 
figure loomed up in the darkness; it was 
the Assistant Adjutant (Frank Eaton) 
come up from B.H.Q. with orders for me to 
proceed immediately to Havre as an in- 
structor for two months at the Central 
Training School there. 

My relief at leaving this scene of desola- 
tion can be imagined, but one didn't feel 
too well about deserting the sinking ship. 
I went off in the morning with my servant 
and a sergeant, also due for Havre; we had 
a long and weary walk through the mud, 
and arrived exhausted at our transport 
lines, where we endeavoured to make our- 
selves presentable for our return to civilisa- 

The Division in those days kept two offi- 
cers at Havre instructing in the school; it 
was a two months' job, and was by way of 
being a rest from the line; one's work there 
was to put all drafts through various tests 
before they went up to join their units. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Bowes-Lyon had been going for us, but 
went sick at the last moment, so I got the 
job instead. 

While doing this job I lived at the 
Guards' Division Base Depot, of whose ex- 
cellence I have already spoken in a previ- 
ous chapter. I do not intend to dwell long 
on these two months. 

It was very cold there the wine even 
used to freeze in the mess; what it must 
have been like in the line then I tremble to 
think. Major Mitchell, a Grenadier, was 
in charge of the school; at first I was put to 
look after the drill, later bayonet fighting; 
I cannot say I enjoyed the work much, and 
I was glad enough when my time came to 
return to the battalion, which I did on Feb. 

I found them at Billon Farm, near Mari- 
court, in Divisional Reserve. Lt. -Colonel 
Thorne was still commanding, with Major 
Rasch as second in command; Frank 
Eaton was adjutant, and companies were 
commanded as follows : (1) John Cragie, 
(2) Hirst, (3) Neville, (4) Parker. I went 
back to No. 2, as before, the other officers 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

being Holbech and Allan Adair, who had 
only recently joined. 

We trained for about a week at Billon 
Farm, and then moved up to Maurepas in 
Brigade Eeserve on the 26th, leaving next 
day for the front lines. No. 2 Company 
was in reserve trenches behind Rancourt. 
Next morning, at dawn, the 29th Division, 
on our left, did a small attack at Sailly Sail- 
lisel, and our artillery carried out a sympa- 
thetic bombardment. 

It was a wonderful noise; there is some- 
thing most awe-aspiring in the start of a 
barrage. It is still dark, and all is dead 
quiet, when suddenly two or three guns, 
who have synchronised badly, fire, follow- 
ed by the full chorus, and hell is let loose. 
That morning it didn't last long, but we got 
some back all right, but with little damage 

On March 1st we relieved No. 4 Company 
in the front line; a minor raid was in con- 
templation, but owing to the brightness of 
the moon it had so far not been found prac- 
ticable to carry it out. 

Our trenches faced St. Pierre Vaast 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Wood, the Germans being just on the west 
fringe of it. It was a pretty peaceful place ; 
the German infantry were quite inactive, 
and allowed us to show ourselves as iriuch 
as we liked. The line was held by a series 
of posts holding from six to twelve men 
each; the posts were pretty close to the Ger- 
mans, and one German shouted across that 
he was a barber in Bermondsey before the 
war, and he wished to God he was still ! 
The German here was quite a gentleman, 
but we apparently took too much advan- 
tage of his gentleness to please him, and he 
put up a notice in his trench that he didn't 
mind us carrying out reliefs in full view, 
but if we continued working parties he 
would be obliged to fire. This type of Ger- 
man was very rare, and it was really rather 
a danger, as one never knew when a relief 
might take place and the old Prussian type 
take his place. 

The overdue raid took place on the night 
of the 3rd, under Lt. K. Henderson, with 
men from No. 2 Company; they reached the 
objective all right, but found the German 
was no longer occupying it, so the victory 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

was barren. 

At dawn on the 4th, our neighbours on 
our right did a show at Bouchavesnes, and 
our artillery did the same as on the previ- 
ous occasion; we also prepared to let off 
smoke bombs, but the wind changed and 
that part of the show was off. 

We had two naval officers attached to us 
at this time; one of them stayed to watch 
this little show, the other expressed a de- 
sire to see how the shells were brought up 
to the heavy guns in the rear. I think the 
one who stayed was duly impressed with 
the modern land battle; they were good fel- 
lows, but they took up rather a lot of room 
in our somewhat conscribed dug-out. 

The Germans replied fairly heartily, and 
some of our posts had rather a warm time. 

We returned to Maurepas that night, on 
relief by the Scots Guards. 

Two days later I left for England for my 
month's leave. 

A prisoner recently captured had given 
away the secret that they were going to 
start withdrawing to the Hindenburg line 
on March 15th; the authorities believed 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

this, but we, I think, were a bit sceptical. 
It turned out to be quite correct, as will be 
shown in the next chapter. 



I WAS on leave till April 10th. During the 
time I was away things had been happen- 
ing; the Germans had cleared off according 
to programme; they had two very good 
reasons for doing so : (1) to take up a new 
and properly defended trench system; ow- 
ing to our continued pressure since the 
summer, they had had no opportunity to 
dig themselves properly in; (2) to upset our 
plans for a big attack along the whole front. 
Both these objects they achieved, but at a 
cost of much loss of morale on their side, 
and much gain of morale on ours. So on 
the whole I think we may claim the opera- 
tion as a success for us; it was the sequel of 
all the hard fighting of 1916; whatever view 
those in authority took of it, it was particu- 
larly pleasing to us in the fighting line, it 
being the first real movement since 1914. 
The actual ground gained was valueless, 
.the Germans having destroyed everything 
ruthlessly, a policy which they pursued in 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

all subsequent retirements, always given 
that they had the time. Many booby traps 
were left behind, and there was full scope 
for his artful cunning and dirty tricks. 

I missed all this part. I wrote to the 
Commanding Officer asking if I should cur- 
tail my leave, as I thought we might be 
having casualties, but his very definite re- 
ply of * ' Whoever heard of a Grenadier re- 
turning to duty before the end of his 
leave ? " put my mind at rest ! 

The battalion had advanced through St. 
Pierre Vaast Wood up to the village of 
Manancourt, after which troops of other 
divisions who had been resting took up the 

Thus, I found them at the same spot as I 
had left them, at Maurepas. They had had 
substantially no change in the battalion. 

Our next job was of a less heroic nature, 
but most useful and important that of 
making roads and railways in the conquer- 
ed territory. 

At first we worked on the road just east 
of Combles; we did this up to the 16th; it 
was monotonous work rather, but the men 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

worked like niggers, and received nothing 
but praise from the staff. 

On the 16th we moved back to Clery-sur- 
Somme, near Peronne, for a week's inten- 
sive training; we were under canvas, and 
we made the most of our week, and got 
through an immense amount of work. 

On the 26th we went fatiguing again, 
this time on a railway. We camped at Le 
Mesnil, and were engaged laying a track 
up to Ytres and Fins, which were to be the 
new forward railheads. We used to rise at 
crack of dawn and work most of the day. 

This went on till May 12th. We had 
rather fun at Le Mesnil. I got away to 
Amiens for one week-end; we used to stay 
at the Hotel du Rhin, and eat enormous 
meals at the Godbert or Cathedral restaur- 

On May 12th I was transferred to No. 1 
Company as second in command to 
Craigie; Frank Eaton gave up the adjutan- 
cy and took command of No. 2, with Hirst 
under him; Mildmay came out from Eng- 
land as adjutant. The other officers in No. 
1 were Frank Siltzer. Elliott and Fitz- 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 


The war had been very quiet on this 
front; the enemy seemed to have no aero- 
planes, and we never got bombed or 

On the 12th we returned to Clery, our 
first step in the direction of the Ypres Sali- 
ent, to which we were destined to return. 

On the 16th the King of the Belgians re- 
viewed the 2nd Guards' Brigade (3rd Batt. 
Grenadiers, 1st Batt. Coldstream, 1st Batt. 
Scots Guards, 2nd Batt. Irish Guards), and 
a very good show it was. The men turned 
out remarkably well, and it was a marvel 
how smart they were in every way after a 
winter in the mud and a spring of doing 
Labour Corps work. No. 1 Company were 
a particularly fine lot of men just then, and 
I always remember the four men selected 
for Commanding Officer's escort on that 
day, three of them six feet five, and the 
fourth six feet three. 

On the 17th we were on the move again; 
one night at Billon Farm, and then back to 
Ville-sur-Ancre,, next door to Morlancourt, 
whence we had started for the Somme 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

battlefield in the previous September. 
Here we stayed for a fortnight, resting and 
training, and it was one of the pleasantest 
times we had during the war. 

We were all very happy at being rid of 
the Somme mud and all its horrible associ- 
ations; the billets were good, and Amiens 
wasn't far off, and altogether we were full 
of the "joie de vivre." 

The country round here was charming; 
especially I remember a little place called 
Heilly, which boasted a restaurant and tea 
shop; I fear it was destroyed in 1918 in the 
German advance. 

On the 30th three companies went on 
with their journey, and we were left to 
clean up, and followed next day; our des- 
tination was Wardrecques, near St. Omer. 
It was a camp, and here, too, we were well 

Here we stayed till June 12th, in reserve 
for the Messines battle, and incidentally 
training for our own offensive which was to 
come. We also put in some musketry on 
the ranges at Moringhem, staying two 
nights there. 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

The annual Fourth of June Eton dinner 
took place at St. Omer; this year it was 
open to the whole of the 14th Corps, and 
there were over two hundred people 

On the 12th we set off for the war once 
more, stopping at Wormhout and Watou 
en route for Elverdinghe. 

Colonel Thome left us at Wardrecques 
on sick leave, and Major Rasch took 




OUR next job was to take over the extreme 
left of the British line, next to the Belgians. 
Our line there was very short, and was held 
with only one battalion in the front lines; 
the remainder of the Division was distri- 
buted in depth; one brigade right back at 
Herzeele, one in the Forest area, and one 
in front. 

It took our brigade to go up first, but not 
our battalion, so we had a bit of time first 
at Elverdinghe and neighbourhood, and 
later at a farm further forward. 

For the first few days my company lived 
in cellars in the village; our cellar was just 
at a cross road, and most unhealthy, it be- 
ing a favourite spot to be shelled. 

I was commanding the company 
temporarily, as John Craigie was acting 
second in command. When the battalion 
went forward to the Bleuet Farm area, east 
of Elverdinghe, in support, Craigie return- 
ed to the company, Ridley having come 
from England as second in command, and 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

I was sent back to the transport lines for a 
few days. These were not far from Poper- 
inghe, where we used to go most days. 
There were Pierrot shows there, and cine- 
mas, and a new restaurant called 
" Cyril's," which we used to patronise. 

On the 22nd I returned to the company, 
which had returned to the Elverdinghe 
area, and were in dug-outs along the kit- 
chen garden wall of the Chateau; it sounds 
a peaceful sort of place, but was in reality 
anything but. There was a battery of our 
8-inch howitzers in some trees just beyond 
the garden, and the Germans discovered 
these and shelled them unmercifully all 
day on the 24th; it was not too pleasant for 
us, as the shells just cleared our wall, and 
the short ones just didn't. So in the even- 
ing we moved to huts just behind, known 
as Roussol Farm; the rest of the battalion 
were already there. 

On the 26th we relieved the 1st Battalion 
Scots Guards in the front line. 

The line ran just west of the Yser Canal, 
in front of Boesinghe, and the Germans 
were just the other side of the canal, so we 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

were very close; the canal was pretty low, 
and with the aid of mats it was possible to 
cross in places. 

The trenches were pretty good, and the 
actual front line had been quiet up to then. 
The village of Boesinghe, where Battalion 
Headquarters were and the reserve com- 
pany, was always getting shelled, and was 
one of the unhealthiest spots on the West- 
ern front. We didn't get shelled much, 
but had a lot of trouble from trench mortar 
bombs at night. These were known as 
pineapples, and exploded with a terrific 
noise ; they used to blow out our candles in 
our dug-out, and were generally discon- 
certing. We had bad luck from one on the 
28th, in the early morning; a pineapple 
dropped right among our Company H.Q. 
sta'ff, and killed my servant, Hucklesby, 
who was lying asleep, set off a box of Verey 
lights, and severely wounded two or three 
other men, including John Craigie's ser- 
vant, who lost a leg. 

Apart from this incident, things were 
pretty quiet, except for showers of rifle 
grenades during our relief by the 3rd Batt. 

Reminiscences oi a Grenadier 

Coldstream on the evening of the 28th. 

After relief we marched back to a camp 
in the Forest at a place called Coppernolle- 
hoek, a typical name for this part of the 
world. There we were in tents; we only 
had two nights there, but one of them was 
most disturbed by the German long range 
guns starting a sudden and furious bom- 
bardment of our camp in the middle of the 
night. It was a wonderful scene officers 
in pyjamas running about everywhere try- 
ing to get their men out of their bivouacs 
into the emergency trenches dug for such 
an occasion as this. Not much damage 
was done, except to a man on sentry; the 
Battalion Sergeant-Major's tent was miss- 
ed by a fraction. 

It is not nice being shelled in the dark, 
with nothing but a piece of canvas over 
one's head, but we got a good deal of it in 
the summer of 1917, and later got innured 
to it. 

On July 1st the 2nd Brigade went back 
to Herzeele, where an exact imitation of 
the German positions to be attacked in the 
coming offensive was laid out. And every 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

day we practised this attack over the canal 
and over the Pilkem ridge. 

I was detailed to command the company 
in the fight, having with me Siltzer and 
Elliot, Craigie and Fitzgerald being left 
out. We got pretty well word perfect by 
the time we left; sand models in minute de- 
tail were laid out, and we spent hours 
studying them with our N.C.O.'s. 

Herzeele was a nice place, well away 
from the war, and we billeted in farm 

H.M. the King came and watched us do- 
ing a practice one day. 

We had one officer casualty here, Allan 
Adair falling off a bicycle and putting out 
his shoulder; as I lent him the bike, an old 
French one with many weaknesses, I felt 
in some measure responsible ! 

We returned to the east end of the Forest 
on the 13th. Colonel Thome had mean- 
while re-joined, and although missing the 
training, very soon knew more about the 
coming offensive than any of us. Next day 
we moved further forward to a bivouac 
near De Wippe Cabaret, west of Elverdin- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

ghe. This place was surrounded with our 
guns massing for the attack. 

From here we did continual fatigues to 
the front line, getting the attack ready. 
Meanwhile, the Germans got wind of some- 
thing about to happen, and their shelling 
increased. Fatigues at night were peril- 
ous affairs. They generally centred round 
Boesinghe, which in ordinary times was no 
bed of roses, but now became an inferno. 
I remember one particularly dreadful 
night when I took up ninety men to carry 
heavy 2901bs. trench mortar bombs from a 
store in Boesinghe up to the gun position. 
It was a dreadful night, pitch dark, with 
shells pouring down; we worked as well as 
we could, but the difficulties were im- 
mense. On the way home down the com- 
munication trenches we were shelled all 
the way, shells just skimming over the 
sides of them; I have a very vivid recollec- 
tion of that night. 

On the 18th I had the interesting experi- 
ence of being shelled in the dentist's chair. 
This was at the C.C.S. near St. Sixte, 
which was a favourite target for the Ger- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

man naval gunners. 

We had some close shaves, too, in our 
bivouac from the quick-firing naval guns, 
but got off with nothing worse than occa- 
sional showers of earth. 

Meanwhile, plans for the attack were 
proceeding apace; the actual date was still 

The battalion had to do one more tour of 
duty in the line before the great day. They 
went up on the 21st; as far as possible those 
taking part in the battle were left behind, 
including myself. The battalion had a 
bad time this tour, chiefly from gas; the 
Germans now were expecting the attack 
any morning, and used to barrage the 
whole of our forward area with gas every 

Our preparatory bombardment, to last 
ten days or so, had now started, and the 
face of the country the other side of the 
canal was being gradually changed and 
blackened out of recognition. The Ger- 
mans there must have had a dreadful time. 

The Battalion was relieved on the 28th, 
much exhausted from continual use of gas 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

helmets; we lost several good men in the 
company from shell fire, too; and alto- 
gether they must have had a very unplea- 
sant time. 

Next day there were signs of a German 
withdrawal. They had apparently cleared 
off from their forward positions, being un- 
able to stand our fire any more, and there 
seemed a possibility of our attack plans be- 
ing upset. But it was decided to cross the 
canal before zero day, occupy the old Ger- 
man line, and carry on the old plan, only 
starting a few hundred yards to the good. 
This crossing the canal was carried out by 
the 3rd Batt. Coldstream, who were to be 
in reserve on the day; they did the job most 
brilliantly, and it was a great advantage to 
us having the crossings made good. 

On the 27th we had a battalion dinner in 
our bivouac; a truly wonderful repast was 
produced, chiefly from Poperinghe, and all 
went very merrily till a German aeroplane 
came over and dropped bombs on us and 
causing us to put out the lights. 

Next day, the 28th, we were told it was 
W. day, denoting the 31st as Z. day. 




AND so we got to the eve of the great offen- 

The offensive was unlike its predeces- 
sors of the Somme and Loos from our point 
of view, and in two respects firstly, we 
had to do all the preparatory work and 
then the attack itself; secondly, we were to 
take part in the opening day, instead of be- 
ing kept to be pushed through the gap if 
created. The latter was an advantage un- 
doubtedly, but the former involved a tre- 
mendous amount of work, and of a most 
dangerous nature. Thus it was that many 
men never lived to fight in the great battle 
they had rehearsed so minutely, and which 
they had prepared for so carefully. There 
was one man who was to be the right-hand 
man of our line, and he was particularly 
proud of being " the right-hand man of the 
Guards' Division," as he called it, but he 
never lived to fulfil that role, being killed 
bv a shell a week before. 


All the battalions in the Division suffer- 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

ed in this preliminary work; we were per- 
haps luckier than most in that we had no 
officers hit; our 2nd Battalion was unlucky 
in this respect, losing two valuable officers 
on patrol, in Basil Blackwood and Gunnis; 
they patrolled across the canal, and neither 
of them were seen again. 

And speaking of this incident makes me 
think of the fine part played by the " old " 
men of the Regiment in the war; I am 
thinking of the men well over forty who 
joined up in a fighting regiment as ensigns, 
serving readily and cheerfully under men 
half their own age. Basil Blackwood was 
a special example of this, and others I 
could mention are Alfred Yorke, Frank 
Siltzer, Aubrey Hall, Gerald Arbuthnot; 
there were others also, and the other Regi- 
ments of the Brigade had similar instan- 
ces. These men, not far short of fifty years 
old, indeed put to shame those myriads, 
much younger, who stayed at home or 
found soft jobs behind the line. 

The 1st Batt. Coldstream had very bad 
luck in losing their Commanding Officer 
and second in command (Colonel Hopwood 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

and Major Burton), killed by the same 
shell on their way back from inspecting the 
front line. There was a cemetery just be- 
hind known as Canada Farm; in the 
middle of June it was practically empty; 
by July 31st it was nearly full, all Guards- 
men killed preparing for the great battle. 

On the 30th we were to go up to the 
assembly positions preparatory to attack- 
ing at dawn next morning. These assem- 
bly positions had been heavily shelled 
with gas shells every morning for the past 
ten days between 3 and 4.30 a.m., and as 
there seemed no reason for the Germans to 
alter their habits, we fully expected to 
have an awkward time before getting off 
the mark. 

We spent the 30th putting the finishing 
touches to the arrangements, in a state of 
pent-up excitement, trying to appear calm, 
but inwardly seething. 

The plan of attack, put very briefly, was 
this the 2nd and 3rd Guards' Brigades 
were to start off the attack, the 2nd on the 
right. Two battalions of each Brigade 
were to capture the first and second objec- 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

tives; the other two battalions were to pass 
through to the third; finally, two battali- 
ons of the 1st Guards' Brigade were to go 
through to the fourth objective over the 
stream known as the Steenbeck. 

We will only concern ourselves with the 
doings of the 2nd Guards' Brigade on the 

The 1st Batt. Scots Guards and the 2nd 
Batt. Irish Guards were to take the first 
and second objectives; the 1st Batt. Cold- 
stream were to pass through the Irish 
Guards, and we were to pass through the 
Scots Guards, and eventually the 2nd Batt. 
Grenadiers were to pass through the whole 
Brigade. My company (I was in com- 
mand, Craigie being left out) was to be 
on the right with No. 2, under Frank 
Eaton, on my left, and with No. 3, under 
Neville, in close support, and No. 4, under 
Heasman, in reserve. 

So much for the plans; and now for the 
execution thereof. 

We left our camp soon after dark on the 
30th, and halted just east of Elverdinghe, 
where we drank rum and tea, which was 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

most comforting, especially the former 
beverage ! and then on by platoons to the 
assembly positions, just south-west of 
Boesinghe village. 

One of my platoons was lost in the dark, 
and gave me many anxious moments; it 
luckily turned up five minutes before zero 

The battle was to start at 3.50 a.m., but 
we weren't due to move till 5 o'clock. 

That night and morning will ever re- 
main a mystery to me; I mentioned just 
now that the particular spot we were to 
assemble in was shelled to bits every 
morning. Well, on this night 30th-31st 
not a shell of any sort or size came any- 
where near us; our guns were firing hard 
all night, but not a word came from the 
other side; it was a merciful thing, and 
saved us an incalculable amount of trou- 
ble. There were two official views of this : 
(1) most favoured by gunners, that our 
counter battery fire was so good that not a 
German could get near his guns to fire 
them; (2) that the German gunners were 
busy getting their guns away and over the 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Steenbeck river to avoid our capturing 

At 3.50 precisely Hell was let loose, as 
the war correspondents would say; Hell 
had been let loose many times before, but 
I doubt if she got quite so much off the 
chain as on this memorable morning. The 
barrage was terrific, and a battery of 
machine guns doing overhead fire just be- 
hind us added to the din. 

At 5 a.m. we got on the move, on through 
the slimy mud in artillery formation or 
" platoon blobs "; my officers under me 
were Siltzer and Elliott. We crossed the 
canal on improvised bridges made of petrol 
tins; it was ticklish work; a false step 
would have pitched one into a filthy 
morass which was known as the Yser 

As I said in a previous chapter, we had 
studied the ground to be advanced over 
from every point of view, and knew just 
how many roads we had to cross and the 
position of every tree. But when we got 
across the canal, we found all landmarks 
gone roads obliterated, woods only shad- 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

ows of their former selves; and it was no 
easy job to find the various objectives. We 
were to go up to the second objective, and 
form up behind the Scots Guards, and ad- 
vance again when the barrage re-started. 

Well, everything seemed to be going ac- 
cording to plan, and we were having one 
of the halts as laid down in the pro- 
gramme; we saw men, presumably Scots 
Guards, advancing away in front of us, 
when the Commanding Officer (Colonel 
Thorne) came up to me and told me we 
were already the foremost troops, that the 
men we saw in front were Germans retir- 
ing, and that the Scots Guards, owing to 
heavy casualties, had not been able to get 
beyond the first objective, consequently 
we were to go on and make good the second 
objective, and then go on to our own. 

On arrival at the second objective, a 
company of Scots Guards, under Captain 
Bradshaw, arrived and took over the line, 
and we continued the advance. All this 
time we were much bothered by enemy 
machine guns fired from concrete block- 
houses, known after as "pill boxes," all 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

along the Ypres-Staden railway, which 
was our right, and the boundary between 
us and the 38th Welsh Division. The 
Welsh Division were going well, but were 
a trifle behind, so we had to deal with these 
pill-boxes; and their occupants surrender- 
ed as soon as we got quite close, and came 
running out without equipment and crying 
for mercy; we spared them, but no one 
could have blamed us if we had butchered 
the lot, they having fired at us as long as 
we were a safe distance away, and then ex- 
pecting mercy. One of them offered me a 
drink of his coffee as a peace offering; I 
declined the kind offer, and showed him 
the road to captivity. 

No. 3 Company, behind us, were of the 
greatest assistance to us, and came up and 
reinforced our right. 

We eventually reached our objective, 
which had been a road, but was now only 
just recognisable as such; and we started 
to dig in. 

During the advance we had very little 
hostile shell fire, but when we arrived at 
our final objective, their guns started, and 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

once started they never stopped; they were 
luckily inaccurate, and we were able to get 
quite respectable cover. Meanwhile No. 2 
Company had done well, and had reached 
their allotted position on our left, having a 
good haul of prisoners from a ruined 
house en route. 

A diversion was caused during the ad- 
vance by an old hare getting up and run- 
ning down the line; several people blazed 
at it, but when last seen it was running 
strongly, and disappeared into the Welsh 

We had now reached the edge of the ab- 
solutely devastated area, and there was 
grass growing in front of us and a few re- 
spectable trees; so when the 2nd Batt. went 
through us they had rather a stiff proposi- 
tion; there was much machine gun and 
rifle fire. 

I can imagine many battalions being 
held up in a similar position, but it was a 
tradition of the Brigade that the allotted 
objective must be reached, up to the very 
last yard of ground, so the 2nd Batt. went 
on and made good the line of the Steen- 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

beck; it was not too pleasant for them; the 
Division on the right were a bit held up, 
and it was some time before they came up 
in line. 

Away on our left the 3rd Brigade had 
accomplished their task, and the 2nd Bat- 
talion Coldstream had gone through them; 
further on the left the French had been 
brilliant, and the day had been a great 
success. The actual ground gained was 
valueless, being a mere morass, but we had 
captured many prisoners and lowered the 
enemy's morale; moreover, we had 
straightened out the north end of the Sali- 
ent and had captured Pilkem ridge; thus 
the Ypres Salient was no longer; that anci- 
ent terror was removed. Whether our 
eventual retirement in 1918 re-made the 
Salient I don't quite know, but at any rate 
it had gone for the moment. 

So much for the achievement, but what 
had it cost us ? 

For a first class offensive we reckoned 
we had got off lightly; my company lost 
about 50 per cent., and one officer (Elliott) 
wounded; we went in 117 and marched out 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

48 strong; a few more turned up later, be- 
ing mixed up with other companies; our 
percentage of killed was luckily small. 
The battalion had one officer killed, Bryan 
Dunlop; he was a great loss, being a very 
promising officer, and popular with every- 

Well, the attack being over, we set to 
work to consolidate the new position. 

As we were no longer front line troops, 
my company was brought back to Batta- 
lion H.Q., where we dug new trenches that 
night, incidentally getting a few hours* 
sleep; I was lucky to find a place to lie 
down in, a captured " pill-box/' and had a 
really good sleep. 

It had meanwhile started raining, and it 
poured all night and next day. This was 
very hard on the men after all they had 
already gone through. We had a bit of 
bad luck that night in a stray shell getting 
a direct hit on one of our new trenches and 
killing three men. 

Frank Siltzer, my only remaining officer, 
did fine work all this time, and was a won- 
derful example of coolness. I have often 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

regretted that I didn't recommend him for 
a decoration. 

Next day was a day of rain and shells, 
but of no particular interest otherwise; we 
were all wet and exhausted, but happy at 
our success and looking forward to a wash 
and sleep on being relieved. The 1st Bat- 
talion Irish Guards relieved us in the even- 

It was a hard journey back through the 
mud, which had become infinitely worse; 
but once on to decent roads again, beyond 
Boesinghe everyone cheered up, and we 
started a song, and the remains of the com- 
pany marched back to the Forest victori- 
ously, singing as they went. It was a 
proud moment, and the feeling of satisfac- 
tion increased on arriving in camp and 
finding a champagne supper laid out ready 
for us. 

That night we slept the sleep of the just. 

1 60 



WE only had two nights' rest, returning to 
the line on August 3rd. 

We weren't in the actual front line this 
time, but took over the area captured by 
the 2nd Guards' Brigade on the 31st; the 
1st Battalion Scots Guards took over the 
Steenbeck line. But although only in sup- 
port, we had a warmish time from shells, 
and it rained almost continuously. 

I had my H.Q. in a " pill-box " in Abri 
Wood, and the Germans enjoyed having 
pot shots at it all day. 

We didn't have too pleasant a walk on 
the first night, and the Germans started a 
heavy barrage just as we got up, and this 
delayed the relief a good deal, and it was 
some time before we got finally settled in. 

We lost an officer, Webster, killed that 
night; the son of an old Grenadier, he was 
particularly popular with everyone, and 
would have been a fine soldier had he lived. 

There is not much more to say about 
these two days; it was very wet and miser- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

able, and it was courting death to walk 
about; the German was thoroughly roused 
by now, and shelled like anything, fearing 
we should continue our advance. 

On the 5th we were relieved by King's 
Company of our 1st Battalion, under Leo 
Fisher-Rowe. It was what might be called 
a very " windy" night, and many shells 
were flying about, and I remember doing 
excellent time over the duckboards with 
my C.S.M. and orderly after the relief was 

That night we went back to Herzeele by 
lorry, and two days later I went on Paris 
leave with Frank Eaton; Paris didn't eem 
at all a bad place after Pilkem and Boes- 
inghe, and we didn't do ourselves too badly 
there. But as this is supposed to be a story 
of the war, I will not write anything about 
Paris life. 

We returned on the 12th. 

On the 14th the battalion left for de 
Wippe Cabaret camp in reserve for an at- 
tack by the 29th (?) Division; I was left 
behind with the details at Herzeele, and 
Craigie took the company up. As a matter 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

of fact they had no fighting to do, only a 
few fatigues, and returned intact on the 

At this time our Brigadier (Brig. -Gen. 
John Ponsonby) left to command a divi- 
sion. I doubt if any Commander was ever 
more popular with his troops, and his de- 
parture was very much felt. He was suc- 
ceeded by Brig. -Gen. Brooke, who had 
commanded the battalion on the Somme, 
an appointment which gave the greatest 
satisfaction to all of us; he remained in 
command, except for a short absence, 
gassed, till the Brigade returned from 

We amused ourselves well enough at 
Herzeele, and had cricket matches, and on 
the 25th our Transport Officer, Duquenoy, 
produced a wonderful and most realistic 
Wild West Show, and we entertained all 
the women and children of Herzeele, who 
seemed much impressed. 

Next day I went on leave, returning on 
September 5th. 

I found the battalion had gone forward 
again, and was doing fatigues from a camp 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

called Eton Camp, near Woesten and El- 
yerdinghe. The night before I rejoined 
they had had a catastrophe; No. 1 Company 
had been on fatigue in front, and had just 
got back to camp, and were having some 
hot drinks, when a German aeroplane came 
over and dropped bombs and laid out thirty 
of them. Naval guns used to fire on the 
camp too, at intervals, so it wasn't too salu- 
brious a spot. 

There was another small offensive opera- 
tion in view, a sort of glorified raid really; 
it was to be a one-company show really, 
and No. 4, under Hirst, was to do the dirty 
work. There was much preparation, and 
practices over a reproduction made near by 
of the country to be attacked; later, the 
scheme became more ambitious, and was 
to involve the whole battalion. It was \o 
take place on the 15th, the anniversary of 
that terrible day on the Somme. In the end 
the idea was dropped, probably as likely to 
be more costly than the objects warranted. 

I got in for an unpleasant fatigue, push- 
ing trolleys on a decauville line up to the 
front Battalion H.Q. ; the trucks were heav- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

ily laden with corrugated iron, and every 
few yards of course came off the line. There 
was the usual accompanying bombard- 
ment going on, of course; and at one 
time things looked awkward, and we had 
to lie very close to the mud to escape a tor- 
nado of 4.2 shells which centred round our 
miserable truck, which we were then try- 
ing to persuade to get on the line again. It 
was a typical " battle fatigue," with mud, 
shells and darkness all contributing to its 

On the 13th we moved a bit further to 
Eugby Camp, which was on the same lines 
as Eton Camp, but with all its disadvan- 
tages accentuated. 

The day before leaving for this resort, a 
flight of aeroplanes came over the camp at 
lunch time, and dropped a shower of bombs 
on us, luckily doing little damage. They 
hit an officer of No. 3 Company, Borthwick, 
who was sitting peacefully lunching; our 
company was having a lunch party, and 
were busy eating foie gras; some of us re- 
tired to a safer place, others remained eat- 
ing foie gras, too engrossed to take notice L 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

We took over Rugby Camp from our 2nd 
Battalion; they had been heavily gas shell- 
ed there, and did not report well on the 

There were two 1.2-inch howitzers just 
behind, not fifty yards from our Mess, and 
the noise they made firing shook the whole 
of one's inside up. As a rule they fired for 
two hours every afternoon. It was awful 
for us; at night the Germans used to search 
for them with 9-inch shells, which used to 
fizz over the top of our tents; sleeping was 
a matter of some difficulty there. 

One evening there we practised a night 
patrol, but the practice became too realis- 
tic, owing to the German shells, so it was 
deemed wiser to abandon it I 

On Sunday, the 16th, we had a church 
parade among all the din; it was taken by 
the Senior Chaplain of the Division, the 
Rev. F. W. Head, who had been our Batta- 
lion Chaplain previously. He was a 
remarkable man, and the men absolutely 
worshipped him; wherever the battle was 
hottest there he was to be found talking to 
the men, as oblivious to danger as though 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

in his own parish at home. I remember 
him preaching that night, and saying what 
a wonderful month September had always 
been for the British Army during the war; 
and if one comes to think of it, no month of 
the year was fuller of incident the Aisne 
in 1914, Loos in 1915, the Somme in 1916, 
the Bronbeck in 1917, and later, in 1918, 
the Canal du Nord and the breaking of the 
Hindenburg Line. 

On the 17th we relieved the 1st Battalion 
Scots Guards on the Bronbeck, in front of 
Langemarck. There had been trouble a 
day or two before, the Germans attempting 
to rush our forward posts; the 2nd Batta- 
lion Irish Guards were involved, and as a 
result of the fight two of their men got 


Once again we had an unpleasant walk 
up. My company was to be in the front 
line, with No. 2 on our left; a torrent of 
shells greeted our arrival. We had our 
Company H.Q. in a post a little bit back 
from the front ones; the company was 
spread about in posts in front; the Bron- 
beck stream ran between us and the 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 


On the 20th there was to be a big attack 
on our right; the troops immediately south 
of us were to take part, and although we 
weren't to move, there was to be an intense 
barrage on our part of the line. 

Tuesday, the 18th, was a day of smart 
shelling by both sides, and one didn't feel 
too happy. On the 19th an intercepted 
German message foretold an attack on our 
front at dawn, and I was sent up into one 
of the front posts in case anything happen- 
ed; we put down a barrage, partly as a pro- 
tection in case of enemy attack, and partly 
as a practice for the 20th. I stayed in a 
ricketty pill-box there, and got nearly all 
the men under cover too, except for sen- 
tries. The Germans shelled hard too for 
an hour or so, and the noise of shells burst- 
ing caused an awful vibration inside the 
pill-box, and one felt one would go mad if 
it lasted much longer. There was no Ger- 
man attack, however, but it was a noisy 
day; we did another practice barrage later 
in the day, which caused the usual 


Reminiscences ot a Grenadier 

Next morning at 5.40 a.m. the big 
attack on our right started; the idea, I 
think, was to straighten the line a bit, as 
we on the left of the British line were a bit 
ahead of the rest, and they were to endeav- 
our to get into line preparatory to a further 
general advance. 

We were to withdraw from our forward 
posts to allow the barrage to come down on 
the Bronbeck line; this we did, advancing 
again behind the barrage to our old posi- 
tions . 

The rest of that day was much like its 
predecessors, continuous shelling, making 
these four days in the Bronbeck sector 
memorable as one of our most shelly ex- 

Next day, the 21st, a battalion of the 
Essex Regiment came to relieve us. The 
Germans put down another barrage just 
before the relief arrived. 

I was ordered to take one of our platoons 
out after relief, and I nearly led them to 
disaster, getting completely lost. It hap- 
pened thus : We had sent a guide to bring 
in the Essex Regiment, and as I was a bit 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

doubtful of the way back in the dark, I told 
this man to lead us out; well, he started off, 
fell down twice in shell holes in the first 
twenty yards, and after leading us round 
in circles a few times had to admit he had 
no idea where we were; so I took up the 
leading, which indeed I should have done 
to begin with. I thought I had hit off the 
right direction; my aim was to march on 
the sound of our guns firing, hoping to run 
into someone who would put us in the right 
way. I thought I could distinguish be- 
tween the noise British guns made firing 
and the noise German guns made firing; 
but I was wrong, I couldn't ! Thus, after 
floundering along for some time in the 
pitch dark and through the mud, we had 
begun to think we must be a mile or two 
from the line, when suddenly a Verey light 
shot up and fell over our heads, thus indi- 
cating that we were only about thirty yards 
from the Germans. I have never been so 
taken aback in my life. Here were we, 
some 25 or 30 men, in full kit, all carrying 
petrol cans, clanking along, with a certain 
amount of talking going on, walking 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

straight into the German lines. We had 
evidently got through our own lines be- 
tween the posts, and were now in No 
Man's Land ! 

Well, this required a little thought; so 
we all lay down, while I sought for a solu- 
tion. Luckily I thought of studying the 
heavens, and without being an astronomer 
in any way, I happened to know the North 
star when I saw it. Well, we were at that 
moment heading straight for the North 
star, when we should be going due south 
to get to our rest billets. So the solution 
seemed simple just turn about and walk 
straight; so we did this, leaving our petrol 
cans for fear of making too much noise. 
Though I didn't realise it at the time, not 
having recovered from the shock, our trou- 
bles were not over, as we had to get 
through to our lines again, and one 
couldn't be certain of striking a gap again; 
so before we had gone far we were sharply 
challenged in English by the voice of a ser- 
geant I knew well, " Halt, who are you? ' 
" Grenadiers, of course; who do you 
think? " answered I innocently. They, of 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

course, thought we were Germans; the 
whole platoon post was standing to arms 
with bayonets sticking over the top of the 
parapet ready for us, and there was a 
machine gunner with his finger on the trig- 
ger just waiting for the word to fire! It 
was a lucky escape, and it speaks well for 
our fire control that no one let his rifle off 
before the challenging; also why the Ger- 
mans were content with one Verey light 
only, and didn't fire at us, I have never 
made out. It was a bad business, my fault 
of course, but I felt very angry with the 
guide for disappointing my faith in him, 
and on arrival in camp I put him in arrest, 
but next morning he was released, it hav- 
ing been borne in upon me that it was my 
fault and no one else's. 

That night we entrained for Proven, 
where we were in camp till the 29th, when 
we moved back to Herzeele to practice for 
the next attack. This training went on till 
October 5th; it was a good rest, too, and the 
battalion was refreshed for further efforts. 

I was to be left out of the next attack, so 
when the battalion went off, I remained be- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

hind with the details. 

Next day I left for England on special 
leave, and while on leave I got orders that 
my "six months' home duty," which I 
had been recommended for, had come 
through; so the war saw me no more till 
May, 1918. I had had over three years' 
continuous service in France, so that I was 
glad to get home for a bit, though I was 
feeling particularly fit at that time, and 
morale was very high. Hirst also came 
back for six months; it was a War Office 
scheme, and continued till the end of the 




I DO not propose to deal at any length with 
these six months. 

I did duty at Chelsea Barracks with the 
5th Reserve Battalion under Lord Francis 
Scott. Our only excitement was from air 
raids, which were particularly numerous 
at this time; they entailed a certain number 
of officers returning to barracks at once 
and waiting till the "All clear " was sound- 
ed; I only got caught once this way, so was 

There was one air raid which affected us 
more than others, in that it caused the 
death of an old and much respected Grena- 
dier, Captain Ludlow, who had just taken 
over a post at Chelsea Hospital; he had 
been Regimental Sergeant-Major of the 
2nd Battalion when I first joined, and later 
Quartermaster of the 4th Battalion; in the 
end he was invalided home and given this 
job. It was a particularly distressing 
affair, as his wife and several children were 
killed too, and his loss was very much felt. 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

Although life was pleasant at home, 
many big things were happening out in 
France. I am not going to describe the 
battles which took place during that time, 
as I was not there myself, but I will just 
give a brief outline of what had occurred 
during my time at home. 

On October 9th the Guards' Division at- 
tacked from the Bronbeck position, and on 
that day and a subsequent one advanced up 
to the outskirts of Houthoulst Forest; it w^as 
a well organised show, and the casualties 
were comparatively light; the battalion 
lost three officers killed, Tetley, Greenhill 
and Eoper; the former was commanding 
No. 3 Company at the time, and was a man 
of peculiar charm and ability. They were 
all three great losses to the battalion. 

After a rest, the Division was moved 
south to take part in the new Cambrai 
battle, and at the end of November the bat- 
talion fought a most heroic battle at Fon- 
taine Notre Dame, near Bourlon Wood; 
they captured the village after a desperate 
struggle, and after suffering very heavily, 
but in the end had to fight their way out, 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

the Germans having got round behind 
them; thus this great effort was wasted 
owing to lack of support on the flanks. 

This attack was carried out by the 2nd 
Guards' Brigade. 

The battalion lost many fine men that 
day; among the officers. Beaumont, Nesbit, 
Worsley and Bowes-Lyon, all of whom had 
served the regiment well over a long 
period, were killed, and there were others 

A day or two later the Division did its 
famous counter-attack at Gouzaucourt, 
and saved the Army from a very ugly dis- 
aster. This was carried out by the 1st and 
3rd Guards' Brigades, and was one of the 
finest achievements of the whole war. 

Following this, the Division moved to 
Arras, and took over trenches in the Eoeux- 
Fampoux area; here the remainder of the 
winter was spent fairly quietly. 

In March the imminence of a big Ger- 
man offensive became certain, and the 
greatest vigilance was required from all 
front line troops; as it turned out, the Divi- 
sion was relieved the day before the storm 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

broke (March 21st), and were billeted in 
Arras. When the attack developed, they 
were moved south to the Ervillers district, 
where the attack had made some progress; 
they restored the situation there, and held 
their line intact against all assaults. The 
line in this part, when the offensive was 
brought to a stop, ran just west of Hamelin- 
court, Moyenville and Courcelles le Conte, 
and east of Boiry St. Martin and Ayette, 
and they were still holding this line when 
I rejoined in May. 

During this latter fighting the battalion 
had lost several officers Kalph Parker, 
Orriss, Pauling, Durbin and Van Eanney 
killed, and several wounded; the former 
had been a particular friend of mine, and 
was commanding No. 1 Company when he 
was hit by a machine gun bullet. 




ON May 1st my six months was up, and I 
went on leave till I was required to go back 
to France. 

I eventually left London on the night of 
May 13th-14th, and on arrival in France 
was sent to the Base Camp at Etaples; 
Hirst returned with me. Etaples was not 
our own Base, and after a few days there 
we were moved on to Havre to our own 

On the way there we passed through 
Abbeville while an air raid was in progress, 
and I have never known a French train 
move so quickly; it simply crashed through 
that town, and it was some time before it 
resumed its normal lethargic methods. 

Havre was much as it always was, a 
comfortable camp, good food, and general 
air of well-being; the weather was very hot, 
and we bathed most days. 

On the 24th we got our orders for the 
front, and we left that night, spending the 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

next day at Rouen, finally detraining at 
Warlincourt near Saulty, thence proceed- 
ing to St. Amand, where the battalion's 
details were. 

The battalion had undergone many 
changes; Colonel Thome still commanded, 
Lord Lascelles was second in command; 
company commanders as follows : (1) Wig- 
gins, (2) Drury, (3) Tufnell., (4) Bedford. 

On the 27th I left St. Amand to join the 
battalion at a place called " Rabbit Wood,' r 
just west of Adinfer; they were due to go 
into the trenches that evening. 

On arrival at Rabbit Wood I was greeted 
by the Commanding Officer by the informa- 
tion that I had arrived just in time, as the 
Germans were going to attack at 3 a.m, 
next morning ! 

I was put to command No. 3 Company, 
in the temporary absence of Tufnell. Hirst 
got No. 4 Company again. The other offi- 
cers in No. 3 were Godman, Clifton Brown, 
Duff Cooper and Gibbon; the two latter ac- 
companied me into the trenches that night. 

We got shelled going up near Adinfer, 
and I found I soon got used to the experi- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

ence again, and I found it no more pleasant 
than before. Our trenches were just south- 
east of Boiry St. Martin; the front line was 
held in various posts, with the C.H.Q. 
under a bank. It was fairly peaceful there 
except for dawn and dusk each day. when 
;the Germans barraged us. They DID NOT 
attack us next day; on the other hand, it 
seemed more as if they rather expected us 

On the 30th, No. 1 Company relieved us, 
and we went back to a bank near Valley 
Wood; there were dug-outs, and not too 
bad. We had two quiet days there, and 
the war didn't seem to be such a dangerous 
occupation as it was when I left it. 

On the early morning of the 2nd, about 
2 a.m., the Germans started gas shelling 
the whole forward area; it was still dark, 
so it was no very easy job waking everyone 
up and getting their gas helmets on; I think 
therefore it reflects great credit on the com- 
pany, and speaks well for their training 
and discipline, that we didn't have a single 
casualty from gas, although the shelling 
was heavy, lasting over an hour, and there 

1 80 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

was no wind at all to blow the gas away. 
I wore my gas helmet for an hour continu- 
ously, and can't say I enjoyed it much. 

Next day we returned to Rabbit Wood, 
and Tufnell rejoined the company next 
day, I remaining as his second in 

On the 4th all Old Etonians went back to 
St. Amand for the usual dinner, returning 
next day to Rabbit Wood. 

On the 7th the Division was relieved by 
the 2nd Division, the 2nd Battalion Oxford 
and Bucks L.I. taking over from us. 

We marched back to a place called La 
Bazecque Farm, east of Saulty; here we 
were partly under canvas and partly in 
farm buildings. All being well, we were 
to have a clear month's training here. 

The Germans seemed to have given up 
their attacks against the British, and were 
putting all their force against the French 
further south. 

We put in a tremendous amount of train- 
ing and recreation at La Bazecque, and at 
the end of our month were fit for anything. 
A curious epidemic, known as " Spanish 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

"flu," or P.U.O., spread over the battalion, 
and nearly everyone got it; it lasted from 
two to seven days, so was not really serious, 
but it made one feel very ill. 

We had Brigade and Battalion Sports 
and a Divisional race meeting and a Horse 
Show and a certain amount of cricket. We 
were occasionally reminded of the war by 
hostile aircraft dropping bombs or by long 
range guns firing at us; on the 28th we had 
a, practice alarm, and we marched up to 
our battle positions near Pommier; we 
didn't know till we got there that it was 
only practice, and we went up prepared to 
beat back the enemy. It was a very hot 
day. and I was just starting P.U.O., so I 
was glad we had nothing more serious to 

On the 6th July the battalion left for the 
front line again; I went with the details to 
Bailleulmont, and Tufnell took the com- 
pany in. 

Bailleulmont was quite a nice village, 
and practically unharmed. The details of 
the 1st and 2nd Guards' Brigades were 
quartered there. I stayed there till the 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

17th, when I returned to the battalion at 
Ransart, where they were in reserve in 
bivouac and trenches. 

On the 18th we took over the front sys- 
tem again, just north of where I had been 
before, and due east of Boiry St. Martin, 
in which place B.H.Q. were. The front 
line was held by one company, with two 
others in the Boiry sunken road in dug- 
outs, and the 4th in and about the Sugar 
Factory further back. 

It took us for the Sugar Factory first; it 
was a favourite target for the Germans, 
and had a very evil reputation before we 
finally left it. 

After two days there we went into the 
front line, a line of posts of considerable 
length. Trench mortar bombs were the 
trouble here, and the slightest movement 
by day produced a hail of these. 

After two days of these, we went back to 
the sunken road, which was the best posi- 
tion of the lot. The dug-outs were good, 
and for some unknown reason it was never 
shelled. It was always swarming with 
life, and was altogether rather an interest- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

ing place; a famous artist came out from 
England and did a picture of it. 

At this time we had some Americans at- 
tached for instruction; I had three of their 
officers attached; they kept us very busy 
answering questions, and seemed to have 
a wonderful grasp of the situation, consid- 
ering they were new to it all. 

When not in the front system, the batta- 
lion was either in support in trenches 
known as Hameau Switch and Windmill 
Switch, with B.H.Q. and the reserve com- 
pany near Ransart, or in reserve at Ran- 
sart. When in reserve we were able to 
move about freely and do training and play 
games; but one had to be more careful in 
support, it being in the shelled area and 
among all our heavy guns. 

On August 8th I was transferred to No. 
1 Company to command it, Arthur Wiggins 
having gone to England as an instructor; 
thus at last I got a company of my own, 
and I was particularly pleased at getting 
command of my old company; I had under 
me there Elliott, Clough Taylor, Dela- 
combe, Calvocoressi and Carstairs, and 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

later on Inglis Jones. 

They were in Adinfer village at the time, 
and my first night with them was rather 
stormy, the Germans keeping up a continu- 
ous fire on the already ruined village. The 
battalion was back in the front lines again, 
and on the 10th carried out a raid against 
a supposed German strong point; de Geijer, 
the Intelligence Officer, was in charge of 
the operation, and the artillery put down a 
barrage; the raiding party reached its ob- 
jective all right, but the Germans had 
cleared off, so no prisoners were taken. 

On the 16th our usual routine was broken 
by a sudden order to move back to Saulty. 
There was much conjecture as to what this 
meant, the official explanation given out 
being that the enemy were massing oppo- 
site us and a new attack was imminent, and 
therefore it had been decided that each 
division should have one complete brigade 
in reserve for counter attacking purposes, 
and that the 2nd Guards' Brigade had been 
selected to be in reserve for the Guards* 
Division. Well, everyone believed this at 
first, but personally I rather suspected 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

something different, chiefly because we 
were told to practise counter attacking, 
and that if we did have to counter-attack 
we should be required to go past our 
original line and capture the village of 
Moyenneville, and therefore, as we already 
knew the features of the ground behind our 
own lines, special study must be made of 
that between our old line and Moyenne- 

Well, this looked to me much more like a 
plan for an offensive from our side, and so 
it proved to be; the previous story being 
circulated to prevent people talking and 
giving the show away. 

At Saulty we prepared for the offensive, 
which was destined to be the beginning of 
the end, and which I will describe in the 
next chapter. 

1 86 



THE attack was due to start at crack of 
dawn on the 21st. 

We had all learnt our parts as best we 
could; there had been many conferences 
and much poring over maps. We all knew 
our objectives on the map; those of us who 
had taken part in big offensives before were 
less sanguine of finding them easily on the 
actual ground. 

Briefly, the plan of attack was this : The 
2nd Guards' Brigade was to carry out the 
attack, the final objective of which was the 
Arras- Albert railway; the 1st Battalion 
Scots Guards were to start the attack on the 
right, with the 1st Battalion Coldstream on 
their left; we were to follow up the Scots 
Guards, and pass through them at their 
final objective, just as we had to at Pilkem 
in the previous year, and capture the line 
of the railway, some way on. The 2nd 
Battalion Irish Guards having been taken 
away from us, there was no one to pass 
through the Coldstream, so they had to do 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

the full journey, though if I remember 
right they had a shorter front. 

The preliminaries to this attack were 
much the same as those of previous 
attacks; in this case, though, there was 
more surprise attempted than before; there 
was none of that dreadful hammering we 
gave the Germans at Pilkem, and conse- 
quently it was easier for us taking up our 

Three officers per company only went 
into the attack; I had Clough Taylor and 
Delacombe with me, though Carstairs, re- 
fusing to be left behind, joined us next day. 
Allan Adair took in No. 2 Company with 
Fairbairn and Chapman; Tufnell No. 3, 
with Clifton Brown and Duff Cooper; 
Hirst No. 4, with West and Papillon. As 
regards the battalion plans : Nos. 3 and 4 
Companies were to be in front and capture 
the railway, No. 2 in support close behind, 
while my company. No. 1, was to be in 
reserve, and its objective was not far in ad- 
vance of the Scots Guards. So it didn't 
seem as if we should have much of a show 
this time. When people told me I had got 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

the "cushy 3 ' job this time, I remember 
thinking that we should most likely end up 
in front, this being so often the fate of in- 
tended reserves. 

We left Saulty in motor lorries on the 
evening of the 20th, got out at the Hende- 
court district and marched thence, after a 
halt for tea and rum, to our old friend the 
sunken road at Boiry St. Martin. Here we 
got the men as comfortable as possible, and 
told them to get some sleep if possible; the 
night was fine, but there was a mist coming 

I remember getting a very good sleep 
that night; we had a hot breakfast some- 
where between 3 and 4 a.m., having 
brought cooks and utensils up for the pur- 
pose, they afterwards returning to the 
transport. It was a funny sensation, wak- 
ing out of a deep and untroubled sleep, and 
suddenly realising that one was about to 
pop the parapet, and more than this, that 
one was responsible for the handling of 
some 130 men, responsible for getting them 
to their objective with the least possible 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

By 4.30 a.m. we were all ready in our 
assembly positions, armed to the teeth, and 
ready for anything; the mist had developed 
into a fog, and one anticipated trouble in 
finding the way. At 4.55 the barrage 
started, and a very fine one it was; tanks 
were co-operating, and one didn't envy the 
Germans much. 

We were to start twenty minutes later, 
and I remember thinking that that twenty 
minutes would just be time enough for the 
Germans to wake up and put down their 
counter barrage. 

But things happened very similarly to 
the 31st July, 1917, and we got on the way 
unmolested. The fog was very trying, and 
one could only see a few yards. Our route 
lay past the old aerodrome which had been 
just behind our old front line, and on along 
a road and through the old trenches, and 
thence across country to a well-known fea- 
ture of the country known as the "Tree 
and a half/ 5 it being an isolated tree and 
the remains of another, and which on a 
clear day was visible for a very long way; 
this feature had been drummed into us 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

since the attack was mooted, and it was not 
thought possible for us to lose our way. But 
the trouble was we couldn't see anything; 
the situation was wrapped in mystery. We 
got to the old German second line, a ramb- 
ling trench, crossed it, got hung up in the 
wire, recrossed it again unwittingly, and 
then started wondering where we were. I 
once more had that lost sensation as on the 
Bronbeck; once more I tried to distinguish 
between the noise made by our guns and 
theirs; once again got it wrong. Mean- 
while, shells started arriving amongst us; 
the Adjutant, Alec Agar-Robartes, had 
been following me up, and I held consulta- 
tion with him; it was then we remembered 
that interesting, but usually much de- 
spised article of equipment, the compass. 
We knew we ought to be going pretty well 
due south, but our compasses indicated 
that we were heading for home, so we turn- 
ed about with eye glued to the compass, at 
last saw the Tree and a half, and took up 
our position in reserve according to plan; 
this was just south-west of the village of 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

We had no inkling of how the other com- 
panies were faring; the battlefield seemed 
strangely deserted, and one wondered what 
had happened and where it had happened. 

The Commanding Officer, Col. Thorne, 
had gone on ahead of the reserve company 
to direct the front wave; he was second to 
none on an occasion of this sort; the fog had 
no terrors for him, and he always knew 
exactly where he w T as on the map ; we were 
fortunate indeed to have him leading us, 
as he converted what looked like a ghastly 
muddle into a brilliant success. Shortly 
after our arrival at our objective, he ap- 
peared from the front after having located 
the support company in front, but having 
seen nothing of Nos. 3 and 4. Directly 
after, Tufnell and Hirst, commanding 
these companies, came up and reported 
that they too had been lost in the fog, and 
were now behind us in an old German 

Thus, as Nos. 2 and 1 Companies were 
now in front, it was decided on a change of 
plan. I was ordered to take my company 
forward and make good a road some 400 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

yards in front; so we went on through the 
fog. Just before we started, a company of 
Scots Guards, lost like the rest of us, ap- 
peared from the German lines led by a 
tank, and were about to attack us. thinking 
we were Germans; we stopped this in time, 
and it was arranged that they should dig 
in on our left. 

Our job wasn't thought too pleasant, as 
there were machine guns barking, and 
none too far away; but we made good our 
road without much trouble, except for a 
few shells. I returned to B.H.Q. as order- 
ed, and reported my new position; a con- 
ference before this was perhaps one of the 
most remarkable councils of war ever held; 
it consisted of the C.O., the Adjutant, the 
Intelligence Officer, three company com- 
manders and a tank officer, and we all sat 
in one shell hole with German shells burst- 
ing all round, poring over maps and trying 
to look and feel unconcerned. The C.O. 
gave his orders as clearly and concisely as 
if sitting in the orderly room at home, and 
we, seeing him, daren't be frightened, and 
I remember my greatest anxiety being that 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

I should not be able to produce the correct 
trench map, or find my place on it when 
produced. Such is the power of discipline, 
which, whatever anyone may say, is the 
finest thing in the world, enabling men to 
do things they couldn't possibly do without 

Well, on reporting again to the C.O., who 
had by now got the situation well in hand, 
I was ordered to carry on the advance and 
capture the objective originally allotted to 
No. 3 Company. No. 2 Company would 
conform, and capture No. 4 Company's ob- 

So I returned to the company, and got 
them formed up in two lines, Nos. 1 and 2 
platoons in front, under Delacombe, fol- 
lowed closely by 3 and 4, under Clough 
Taylor; the fog was now lifting somewhat, 
and the sun showed vaguely; the sun was 
pretty well the line of our advance, and I 
ordered the men to march on the sun, and 
so once again the heavens came to our res- 
cue. It seemed a long way; half-way there 
we ran into a battalion of Royal Scots, and 
I had a short talk about the situation with 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

their C.O. before going on; he told me what 
he knew of the situation, and I gathered 
that a battalion of the Shropshire Light 
Infantry were ahead of them, and had 
reached the railway line. After leaving 
them, we had to go over a ridge with our 
railway in the shallow valley below; this 
meant advancing down a sort of glacis, and 
now the fog had lifted, in full view of the 
enemy; it was not pleasant, and machine 
gun bullets zipped past us, and I don't 
know why we weren't all killed. Anyhow, 
by short bursts of doubling we reached the 
shelter of the railway embankment; there 
we found the Shropshires and, to our sur- 
prise, half a platoon of our No. 3 Company, 
under Duff Cooper; they had done most 
gallantly, and carrying out their instruc- 
tions to reach their objective at all costs, 
had arrived there and were waiting devel- 
opments; they couldn't tell us much about 
the situation, except that the enemy was 
in strength on the far side of the embank- 
ment, which they were raking with M.G. 
fire, and that they believed No. 2 Company 
was on their left, but did not know their 

Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

exact position; so I put my company, or 
two platoons of it, in on their left, the other 
two platoons remaining in the shelter of the 
valley behind. 

We then decided to go and look for No. 2 
Company, the party being Cooper, my 
C.S.M. (Marks), a runner, and myself; we 
continued along the embankment until the 
line became level; then there was a thin 
hedge, and we heard a machine gun firing 
from it; here, we thought, is No. 2 Com- 
pany all is well; but on getting closer we 
noticed the barrel pointing towards our 
lines, and a section of fat grey figures 
crouching round it. Well, this looked too 
good a bag to miss, and they hadn't seen 
us; so we turned back and organised a 
small attack; I detailed Cooper and his men 
to creep up and rush the post, with my No. 
1 platoon following up to help if necessary, 
and to consolidate the ground gained. 
This operation was most successful, though 
we had a few men hit; the German machine 
gunners, eighteen of them, surrendered en 
bloc, and we dug in along the hedge. 

I next discovered No. 2 Company a little 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

bit back behind a bank; they had been led 
most gallantly by Allan Adair, and had 
done their job well. Their bank was under 
heavy machine gun fire from some way 
back, and it was not deemed advisable for 
the moment for him to advance his men up 
to my left. The Germans started now firing 
field guns practically over open sights at 
us, and we weren't having too good a time; 
not long after the machine gun fire relaxed 
a bit, and No. 2 Company was able to reach 
the railway, which opposite them ran 
through a cutting; during this operation 
many prisoners were taken, machine gun- 
ners who had either got tired of firing, or 
who had fired their last shot and had re- 
tired to temporary safety in dug-outs; they 
surrendered tamely enough. 

Thus, our line was established, and the 
Coldstream having been located on our left, 
our flanks were secured, and we set to 
work to consolidate our new position. 

We dug ourselves well in all along the 
railway, with supports close behind. There 
was a small quarry near by with a respect- 
able dug-out in it, and this I fixed as my 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

C.H.Q., inviting Allan Adair to join me 
there, which he did. There was a lot of 
shelling of the embankment the rest of that 
day, but our quarry was left pretty much 
alone. It was risky work going round the 
line, as enemy machine gunners used to 
take shots at one walking along. 

At night we pushed posts forward into 
some old German rifle pits; I sent one of 
my support platoons out in front, under 
Sergeant Habberjam. 

That night passed off fairly uneventfully; 
we were content with our day's work, the 
Commanding Officer had praised us, and 
we heard that the higher authorities were 
well pleased, and so we were contented. 
It is hardly necessary to say the men were 
wonderful they always were. Were it 
possible to mention them all by name in 
this book I would do so, but as it isn't, I 
mention instead their officers as represent- 
ing them. No one was more loyally served 
by the men under him than I was, from the 
C.S.M. to the youngest guardsman; and 
we, as officers, indeed had our way made 
smooth by having such magnificent men to 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

command. The most difficult job a Com- 
pany Commander had was to select names 
to recommend for decorations; all deserved 
them, whereas only four or five got them 
after each show. 

But to return to the battle. On the morn- 
ing of the 22nd at dawn we were just get- 
ting ready to stand to arms in the ordinary 
way when the Germans opened a terrific 
barrage on us. and a messenger arrived 
from the front line to say the Germans w^ere 
coming over; we raced out from our quarry, 
ran the gauntlet of innumerable shells, and 
reached the railway safely; the situation 
was a bit obscure; one could see nothing 
from our part of the line, though No. 2 
Company, lower down, reported seeing 
enemy advancing. 

Someone on our right sent up the S.O.S., 
our artillery put down a very good and 
accurate barrage, and all was quiet; it was 
impossible to get communication with our 
front platoon during this time, and we had 
no idea how they were faring. One Ger- 
man in full marching order came over to 
our lines and gave himself up ; it transpired 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

later that it was an organised counter- 
attack with the idea of regaining all they 
had lost the day before. It failed complete- 
ly, and the attacking Germans were pinned 
to their ground and remained in the 
various trenches and shell holes where they 
had been brought to a standstill. 

When things quietened a bit, an attempt 
was made to get communication with the 
front platoon, and to send them up more 
ammunition. Delacombe. who was com- 
pany patrol officer, attempted to crawl up 
with two men, but both men were hit, and 
it was with difficulty that he got back all 
right. It didn't seem possible to get up 
there, but Delacombe was not to be beaten, 
and he volunteered to try again by a differ- 
ent way, making use of some old horse 
standings in front of our line as cover; this 
time he succeeded, and brought back most 
useful information; the garrison in front 
were all right; they kept out the enemy in 
spite of great pressure, and had behaved 
most gallantly; Sergeant Habberjam was 
recommended by the platoon for the 
D.C.M., which he got; it was a fine per- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 


The rest of that day was very trying; we 
were all tired, and the Germans shelled us 
relentlessly all day, and also trench- 
mortared us; they got on to our quarry, and 
it became far from healthy. 

We had several visitors from the outside 
world, all full of congratulations, among 
them Head, the Senior Chaplain, whose 
presence in dangerous times was always an 
inspiration; I doubt if I ever met a calmer 
man at such times, or one who had himself 
so completely under control. 

There were rumours of our being relieved 
that night, and later a definite message 
came to this effect. Later this was cancel- 
led, and an inter-company relief was 
arranged instead; we were to be relieved by 
No. 3 Company, and go gack to a bank a 
little way back; No. 3 had been shelled 
heavily all day too, and I don't think we 
should have gained much by the exchange, 
apart from being relieved of the responsi- 
bility of holding the front line, and the 
front platoon required relaxation, however 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

I had handed the whole thing over to 
Tufnell, and showed him all our deposi- 
tions, when another message arrived can- 
celling the company relief, and telling us 
to send to B.H.Q. for several yards of white 
tape. Well, this looked like a night attack, 
it being the custom to wear white 
tape on one's arms to distinguish 
friend from foe. It transpired that the 
attack was to be pushed next day, 
and we were to attack again and take 
a strong enemy trench some 500 yards on, 
known as Hammoville Trench; Nos. 3 
and 4 Companies were to do the actual at- 
tack, No. 2 was to support; we, No. 1, were 
to withdraw from our advanced positions 
during our barrage, and reoccupy them 
twenty minutes after zero hour, and also a 
line of pits a little further on, thence we 
were to be in reserve to help if required. 
The attack was timed for 3 a.m. 

We had previously had a conference in 
our little dug-out in the quarry, the C.O., 
company commanders, and all the platoon 
commanders, and huddled up there to- 
gether we made our plans; time was short, 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

and we only just had time enough to get 
things ready by 3 a.m. My dispositions 
were as follows : My No. 3 platoon, which 
had been in front, was to remain in the em- 
bankment with C.H.Q., the other three 
platoons were to move forward at 3.20 to 
the allotted objectives in front. At 3 a.m. 
I was in C.H.Q., a deepish dug-out, very 
narrow and dark ; our barrage opened with 
terrific force; the Germans opened one 
simultaneously, apparently also intending 
to attack. At 3.20 I had to get out of my 
more or less safe refuge to see the other 
three platoons to their destination, and I 
had arranged to go with two runners, leav- 
ing the rest of my Headquarters behind. It 
was awful waiting for those twenty minutes 
to pass; a veritable hail of shells outside, 
all sizes up to 8-inch, and knowing that 
I had to go out and face the storm, it was a 
terrible temptation to stay in the dug-out 
and run the show from there, but, thank 
God, I didn't, and I went out with my two 
runners; crossing the railway a shell came 
yery close, and we lay down to avoid the 
shock; after the earth stopped falling I told 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

them to get up, but one of them (Jones) 
never moved again; he was just by my side, 
and had been killed by the shock. It was 
a wonderful sight out there, still dark, and 
a red wave of shells going on ahead; the 
men went well; some of my company went 
on with the first wave in their enthusiasm. 
The attack was a tremendous success; 
our companies were very weak, but the 
Germans were taken quite by surprise, and 
surrendered wholesale ; the earth seemed to 
open and give up Germans; the front com- 
panies captured many times their own 
number. The enemy kept up a heavy fire 
on the railway for some time, and when it 
got. light things quietened down. And 
then followed one of the most interesting 
days I spent in the whole war. The 1st 
Battalion Coldstream came through us, 
and attacked up to Judas Farm, near Er- 
villers, and later our 1st Battalion came 
through in perfect formation and attacked 
the Mory Switch trench; there was no more 
wonderful sight than watching that batta- 
lion go up in artillery formation, and then 
deploy and attack; later still, gunners gal- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

loped up and actually went in front of 
where we started the day, and we really be- 
gan to think things were getting a move on. 

Delacombe was wounded early in the 
day ; and Carstairs joined the company. 

That night the 2nd Battalion Scots 
Guards relieved us, and we marched back 
dead tired, but full of the joy of victory, to 
Ayette, where we lived in the old trenches 
there. We thought we had got away from 
the war, but to our disgust a heavy naval 
gun started shelling Ayette next morning, 
and kept it up at intervals all day. This 
was more than we could stand, and we were 
ordered further back to old gun positions 
behind Adinfer Wood, where we lived in 
peace and refitted, and got ready for the 
next battle. 

About this time Colonel Thome left us, 
to our general regret, to command first an 
Army School, and then a Brigade; Lord 
Lascelles took over command, and later 
Major Pearson Gregory came as second in 




I WAS left out of the next battle, and Elliott 
took my company in. As far as possible 
those who had been in the previous battle 
were left out of this one. I therefore went 
back to Berles au Bois, where our details 
had moved to. 

The new offensive started on September 
2nd, but the battalion was not engaged till 
the next day. They had a long and rather 
trying march up, and had to go through all 
the usual anxieties, but the attack itself 
turned out to be a walk over; the usual bar- 
rage was put down, but the enemy had 
cleared from his position. 

The battalion started from the Vaulx 
Vraucourt area, and advanced through 
Lagnicourt and Boursies, and the enemy 
was finally bumped into his old Hinden- 
burg Line about the Canal du Nord. 

There were very few casualties in the at- 
tack, but while digging in later the right 
half battalion were very heavily gassed, 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

and lost all their six officers and a large 
proportion of the men. Thus Elliott, In- 
glis Jones and Calvocoressi of No. 1 Com- 
pany, and Dury, Henderson and Manley 
of No. 2 Company, were gassed, and did not 
return to the battalion. 

The details were sent for as reinforce- 
ments, and we also had a draft from the 
4th Battalion, which had been withdrawn 
from the firing line after their experiences 
at Nieppe Forest, and were now at Le Tre- 
port on the sea. 

We rejoined the battalion on the 9th; I 
found a very attenuated company, only 
about 25 men left under a corporal. The 
reinforcements only brought us up to a 
little over 50, so for some time we were very 
weak, and there was a good deal of reor- 
ganising to do. Luckily my C.S.M. had 
been left out of the fight, and he, together 
with the C.Q.M.S. (Dore) were of the great- 
est assistance in pulling the company to- 
gether again. 

The battalion was in reserve west of Lag- 
nicourt till the 15th, and we put in a good 
deal of training and recreation before mov- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

ing further forward east of Lagnicourt and 
west of Doignies and Louver val. 

Allan Adair got command of No. 2 Com- 
pany, vice Bury, and I had Carstairs and 
Donnison in No. 1, Clough Taylor having 
gone temporarily to the Brigade as gas 

Things meanwhile were pretty lively on 
the Canal du Nord; the trenches west of it 
were still held in places by the Germans, 
and it was deemed advisable to make good 
all the ground up to the actual canal before 
the next advance was started. 

On our particular front this was done in 
places, but not altogether; on our right the 
canal swung back, and the next division 
were dug in on the east side; away on our 
left at Moeuvres there was continuous and 
confused fighting, the village changing 
hands about twice daily. 

Bourlon Wood was the dominating feat- 
ure of this country; it was still in German 
hands, and seemed to look down on us 
wherever we went; thus by day we were 
pretty well overlooked. 

There was a new attack in preparation, 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

though the exact date was not known. It 
was to be one of the biggest of the series, 
and aimed at the capture of the formidable 
Hindenburg defences, and the driving of 
the enemy into more or less open country. 
The job of the battalion was to clean up the 
trenches west of the canal, while the Scots 
Guards on our right crossed the canal and 
similarly the Coldstream on the left. We 
were given the lightest job, as we had to 
hold the front line previous to the attack. 

I will explain this attack later, as we had 
a tour of duty in the trenches first which 
was not altogether devoid of interest. 

We went into the line on the 23rd; my 
company was on the extreme right of the 
Brigade's front and next to the Royal Scots 
of the 3rd Division; our line ran up to the 
canal, and the Germans had posts just on 
the far side. 

It had been fairly lively there, and the 
3rd Division had been attacked a few days 
before; the attack was beaten off, and the 
1st Battalion Coldstream, who were hold- 
ing the line on their left, had a wonderful 
enfilade shoot, and wrought great slaugh- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

ter on the attackers. 

We relieved the Welsh Guards here; 
there were some wonderful dug-outs here, 
twenty or thirty feet deep, where one could 
get away from the war and have a sleep 
when not on duty, so we weren't too badly 
off. We got in for a bad barrage on the 
morning of the 25th. half-an-hour of the 
best, and it looked as if the enemy was 
going to attack ; it was very severe while it 
lasted, and we stood to arms dodging the 
shells as best we might. Nothing else hap- 
pened to us, but it was thought that an at- 
tempt was made to raid posts held by our 
No. 3 Company; the attempt was half- 
hearted, and resulted in nothing. We had 
a few casualties, but nothing very alarm- 

We were busy all this time getting ready 
for the great offensive, which we now 
learnt was fixed for the early morning of 
the 27th. If successful, this battle was to 
have far-reaching effects; it was ambitious, 
the Hindenburg Line being by no means a 
light proposition. It turned out to be one 
of the most successful days of this type of 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

close fighting experienced during the war; 
it may well be called the beginning of the 
end ; from thence onward things went with 
a rush, the enemy's morale was finished, 
and the war collapsed with startling sud- 

But to return to the actual battle; as I 
said before, our task was comparatively 
light. No. 3 Company, under de Geijer, 
was to do the actual attack, supported by 
No. 4, under Bunbury; while No. 2, under 
Adair, held their original position on the 
left. My company was to be in Brigade 
Reserve, and for that purpose was to be 
withdrawn to the dug-outs in which 
B.H.Q. had lived, and there to await de- 

On the night of the 26th, the 1st Batt. 
Scots Guards relieved my company and 
took over their battle positions; they were 
pretty well squashed up in their trenches, 
each of my platoons being relieved by a 
company, but their job was severe, and it 
was necessary for them to attack in 
strength; the Canal, although empty, was 
broad and with steep sides; portable scal- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

ing ladders were used. 

On relief we went back to the trenches 
known as Walsh Support, and were secret- 
ed in dug-outs there. Personally I did not 
expect we should have anything to do next 
day, as the attack was on a big scale, and 
the 1st and 3rd Guards' Brigades were to 
go through the 2nd, and finally the 2nd 
Division were in reserve to go through 

Our Division was now commanded by 
Maj.-Gen. Matheson, who succeeded Gen- 
eral Feilding, who left to command the 
London District. 

The attack started a trifle before dawn; 
it had rained during the night, and the 
assembled troops had rather a poor time, 
added to this the Germans started shelling 
heavily just before our attack was due to 

We put down probably the heaviest bar- 
rage of the war, and the attack everywhere 
met with success, except that on our left, 
in the next Division's area who were to at- 
tack in flank that section of the Hinden- 
burg Line between us and Moeuvres, there 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

were some trenches uncleared, and the 
machine gunners in these proved very 
tough fighters, and gave a lot of trouble to 
the 1st Battalion Coldstream, and also at 
longer range to our front companies, who, 
by the way, had accomplished their task 
perfectly, with very few casualties, and 
taking several prisoners. 

So it was that, although the attack had 
gone on well beyond the canal, and on to- 
wards Rumilly, which was the farthest 
point it was hoped to reach, there were still 
those men on our flank holding out; they 
were, of course, surrounded, and never 
had any hope of escape ; but it so happened 
that their regimental commander was 
going his rounds when the attack started, 
and he, no doubt, was the cause of their 
not surrendering long before. As a result 
of this, the Coldstream, although they had 
captured their own objective all right, were 
having difficulty in consolidating. 

In the afternoon I was ordered to take 
my company up to the canal to support the 
Coldstream, who were organising a bomb- 
ing attack to deal with these people. So 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

we marched off there, thinking that, after 
all, we were going to have a show. But 
just as we got up, we saw a wonderful 
sight swarms of people advancing to our 
flank, preceded by a Tank; they were the 
next door Division, who should have 
arrived at 9 a.m.; when they did arrive, 
they did their job well, and the tank soon 
persuaded the Germans that their game 
was up, and out they came, some 200 of 
them, headed by the afore-mentioned regi- 
mental commander, as dapper a little man 
as I have ever seen, perfectly dressed, with 
a spotless, tight-fitting grey overcoat, kid 
gloves, an ebony walking stick and a large 
cigar. He seemed to take his fate very 
philosophically, no doubt pleased at hav- 
ing put up so good a fight. 

Well, after this there was nothing else 
for us to do, so we returned once more to 
Walsh Support. 

It had been an interesting day; the at- 
tack had gone well all along the line, 
and at the end of the day the line ran just 
west of the Canal de TEscaut in the Marco- 
ing district. The Canadians, on the left, 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

had taken Bouiion Wood, and advanced 
well beyond it. The enemy still had 
strong trenches about Marcoing and Mas- 
nieres, but his main defences had gone, 
and he must have been in a pretty bad 

That night we went back to Doignies to 

It was a great advantage being the first 
troops in the attack, as, all being well, one 
got a rest the same night, instead of having 
the additional fatigue of holding the 
ground gained. 

We had about ten days at Doignies, rest- 
ing and training, and we were quite happy 

A few more officers arrived, notably 
Eric Anson, who had been out twice before, 
and K. A. Campbell, who came to No. 1 
Company as my second in command; he 
had been previously with some Yeomanry, 
and later the Household Battalion; Gun- 
ther was also posted to the company, vice 
Donnison, who went to No. 4 Company. 

In the beginning of September, Agar- 
Eobartes, the Adjutant, went on the Staff, 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

and his place was taken by Fitzgerald, 
Cornish becoming assistant adjutant. 




ON the evening of the 7th October we left 
Doignies and marched up to bivouac just 
west of Marcoing, to be in reserve to the 
2nd Division, who were attacking next 

During our stay at Doignies, the 2nd and 
3rd Divisions had pushed on and establish- 
ed themselves east of Rumilly; on the 8th 
they were to push on again, and the 2nd 
Division, which concerned us, was to cap- 
ture a strongish trench, and also the small 
village of Forenville, and we were to go 
through them. 

We had an uncomfortable night on the 
7th-8th; we had some difficulty in finding 
our bivouacs, owing to our guides losing 
their way in the dark, which was not to be 
wondered at really, as in this devastated 
country there were practically no land- 
marks. So we arrived very late at night, 
and had to settle ourselves in in the dark, 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

and it was none too warm; personally, I 
didn't get too much sleep that night; the 
German naval gunners were pretty active, 
too, and remained so all that night and 
most of the next day. 

If the attack was very successful on the 
8th, it was likely that we should go through 
the same day, but ordinarily we weren't to 
take the field till the 9th; our immediate 
objective was to take a high railway em- 
bankment east of Forenville, but we were 
also allotted various tentative objectives 
further on in the event of things going un- 
expectedly well. 

My company was to be on the right, in 
front, with No. 2 under Adair on my left, 
with No. 4 in support under Bunbury, and 
No. 3 under Anson in reserve. 

About mid-day on the 8th we had orders 
to move up across the Canal de 1'Escaut 
to the Masnieres area; the 2nd Division had 
got on fairly well, but had not quite 
reached their final objective; they had inci- 
dentally been counter-attacked by tanks, 
aind the Germans seemed to be showing 
some fight. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

We remained in trenches round Masni- 
eres till late at night on the 8th-9th; we had 
sent up parties to reconnoitre our assembly 
positions east of Rumilly, and spent the 
rest of the day studying the map, and won- 
dering what the morrow had in store for us. 

We got mildly gas shelled on the way, 
and there was a horrible smell of stale gas 
about the streets of Rumilly, but it was not 
necessary to put on gas helmets; we found 
our assembly positions all right; the plan 
was for the 2nd Division to go back to rest 
as soon as we got into position. 

Our attack was to start at dawn; we had 
our 2nd Battalion on our right. 

That night was, in many ways, a 
remarkable one; Cambrai was just on our 
left, and was burning fiercely all night, and 
was, as far as we could see, being shelled 
by both sides; it was a tragic sight, and im- 
pressed us a good deal. In the middle of 
the night fresh and final orders arrived, 
necessitating conferences in the dark; 
there were a few minor alterations in the 
plans, including a preliminary advance 
before zero. However, everything was 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

ready well before the starting time. 

The night had been disturbed up till 
about midnight, when the Germans sud- 
denly became dead quiet; not a shell or a 
bullet came our way. I began to wonder 
if he had cleared off again, but daren't sug- 
gest the idea, lest it should bring down a 
shower of shells on to us. 

At the appointed hour our barrage came 
down, and we advanced; no opposition, no 
trouble at all, except for some of our own 
guns firing short; it seemed such a pity one 
couldn't switch off the barrage and just 
advance without it, but it was not possible. 
We saw our railway embankment, and 
could have got to it long before, but our 
barrage necessitated our going slow; I had 
expected this embankment would have 
given us a lot of trouble; I had pictured 
masses of machine guns firing from the top 
of it, and another day such as August 21st. 
But there wasn't a soul there, and as soon 
as our guns ceased firing on it, we took 
possession and had some breakfast. 

Having achieved our actual final objec- 
tive without opposition, it was obvious we 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

should have to follow up to our tentative 
objectives Wambaix Copse, Estourmel, 
and the Cambrai-Le Cateau road. We 
couldn't tell then how far the enemy had 
gone back; it had been foreshadowed that 
he meant that his next real line of resist- 
ance to be the line of the River Selle about 
Solesmes; so it occurred to us that he might 
have already gone right back there, and I 
remember the Commanding Officer opti- 
mistically saying that we could treat the 
rest of the day as a " scheme. " 

But, although undoubtedly his main 
body had gone right back, yet strong rear- 
guards with plentiful artillery remained to 
bar our path. Our method of advancing 
was to be cautious, and strong patrols were 
to precede us and report all clear before a 
general advance. Thus, patrols were sent 
out to Wambaix Copse, a small wood half 
a mile on, and on its being reported clear, 
the companies advanced; these patrols 
consisted of one platoon under an officer; 
Gunther had charge of my patrol. 

Next, the village of Estourmel had to be 
investigated; the same patrol went on 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

while we pushed on over the open country, 
and waited just outside the village; the 2nd 
Battalion, on our right, co-operated with 

On the patrol entering the village the 
enemy made his first signs of life, and 
started shelling the eastern approaches 
with field guns; nothing heavy, and prob- 
ably not more than one battery was in 
action, but it was enough to tell us we were 
not to have everything our own way. The 
patrol gained the village all right, and took 
a few prisoners from the cellars; they 
established themselves in a sunken road on 
the far side, and sent back a message to us 
to come on. 

Meanwhile, the shelling was getting 
more severe, and a machine gun started; 
we had to cross over a ridge, and on reach- 
ing the top were heavily fired on by 
machine guns; we deployed and doubled 
into the valley below; there was yet an- 
other ridge to cross before reaching the 
sunken road; my plan was to reach the ob- 
jective from the south side of the village, 
and skirting it, as it was now under heavy 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

shell fire ; the difficulty now was to get over 
the next ridge without having casualties. 

I left the company in the valley, and 
went on with Campbell and a runner to see 
how the land lay; to our great joy we found 
another sunken road which led right into 
our objective, and thus it was possible to 
get there without crossing the ridge, and 
quite unseen. The 2nd Battalion, on our 
right, had no such luck, and were pretty 
well pinned to their ground about the vil- 
lage of Cattenieres. Two platoons man- 
aged to get forward, and came in on my 
right in the sunken road. 

We discovered that the machine gun fire 
came from an isolated factory called Bol- 
strancourt; it was surrounded with trees 
and a hedge, and there were also some 
trenches there. This factory dominated 
our position entirely, and as w^e had got 
right away, now, from our artillery, the 
idea of further advance was abandoned for 
the moment. The shelling became very 
severe, and a German aeroplane came over 
just above our heads, and must have loca- 
ted us exactly. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

We began having casualties, and our 
easy day turned after all into rather a 
strenuous one. 

I had three platoons in the sunken road, 
with the fourth dug in in a ploughed field 
to connect up with No. 2 Company, who 
were in another sunken road, with troops 
forward in some buildings known as Igniel 
dit les Frisettes; these latter were on the 
Cambrai-Le Cateau road, and were so 
heavily shelled that they had to be evacu- 
ated, and the men dug in behind. 

The shelling \vas continuous all that day, 
especially in the villages of Estourmel and 
Cattenieres. Our guns could not get for- 
ward to help us, so it was rather one-sided. 

That night I was ordered to push for- 
ward under cover of darkness to the main 
road, and dig in beyond it; the 2nd Batta- 
lion were to advance, and rush Bolstran- 
court, and connect up with us. This oper- 
ation was carried out successfully, and 
without opposition, and the enemy was on 
the move again, and at midnight his guns 
stopped firing. Our advance was to be 
continued in the morning. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

The 1st Battalion Scots Guards were to 
go through us, and advance, if possible, to 
St. Hilaire, through Carnieres and Boussi- 
eres. We were to follow them up. 

It was a much more interesting form of 
war than we had grown accustomed to; 
practically the open warfare we had sighed 
for for years. 

We advanced on the 10th, with no artil- 
lery support; the battalion advanced along 
the road by platoons; Nos. 3 and 4 Compan- 
ies led, with No. 1 next, and No. 2 behind. 
Cavalry patrols made their appearance, 
and it was all very interesting. We halted 
first at an isolated farm-house just west of 
Carnieres, and then went on through Car- 
nieres to the high ground beyond ; here we 
once more came under shell fire, and they 
put a salvo at my Company H.Q., which I 
had established in a cottage. 

Things seemed to be going well in front, 
and we just had time to snatch a very 
hurried lunch before being ordered on 
again, this time through Boussieres; we 
encountered fairly heavy field gun fire on 
the way, but got to the far side of the vil- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

lage all right, and dug in along a bank. 
That was as far as we got that day, as the 
Scots Guards bumped the enemy in front 
of St. Hilaire, and were held up. 

We made ourselves as comfortable as we 
could; there was a good deal of shelling, 
but it was wild and inaccurate, and didn't 
really worry us very much. 

Next day the 3rd Guards' Brigade took 
up the chase, and their objective was to 
capture Solesmes, if possible, and then ex- 
ploit their success. We were to march to 
St. Vaast, a village just east of St. Hilaire, 
and billet there; both these places were in 
German hands still. 

Some of our guns had by now moved for- 
ward, so we again had support. 

We didn't actually move till about 9a.m. 
on the llth ; to give the 3rd Brigade time to 
get forward. As it happened, they found 
things a bit more difficult than was expec- 
ted, and they were held up on the far side 
of St. Vaast. This was the limit of the ad- 
vance that day. Our experience was 
rather odd; we marched up in fours to St. 
Hilaire, along roads crowded with trans- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

port, to find the enemy only just out of the 
town, and machine gun bullets flying over 
the houses. So we halted in St. Hilaire, 
and were put into billets there. We found 
a very comfortable house to live in, but I 
felt all the time we were in a fool's para- 
dise; the enemy were only a few hundred 
yards away; if you put your head outside 
the door a bullet would swish past it. It 
seemed all wrong being so comfortable so 
close up ; I felt also that the house was pro- 
bably mined, and might go up in the air 
any moment. 

The Germans had done a lot of mining; 
there were continually large explosions 
going on; also booby traps were plentiful; 
an expert sapper used to go round the bil- 
lets looking for bombs under the pianos, or 
traps concealed in the rooms. We luckily 
never got caught by one of these. 

As it turned out, we had a very peaceful 
day at St. Hilaire, and next day a battalion 
dinner was arranged in one of the best 
houses in the place, and a truly remarkable 
meal resulted, and eaten amongst every 
sign of luxury and well-being. I well re- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

member the look of surprise and incredu- 
lity on the face of a sapper officer on his 
way from the front line, who came to ask 
his way. 

The Germans gradually completed their 
withdrawal to the river Selle; this left 
rather a curious position, as the river ran 
through the village of St. Python, thus giv- 
ing us half the town and them the other 
half, with civilians living in both halves. 

We relieved the 2nd Battalion Scots 
Guards there on the 13th. They had had 
rather a bad time there, and the position 
in the village was a bit tricky. No. 4 Com- 
pany, under Bunbury, held the actual 
village, my company was behind in 
trenches, and I had my H.Q. in an isolated 
house with a big, but unsafe, cellar. 

No. 4 had a very curious experience in 
St. Python. The inhabitants used to come 
and fall on their necks, and give them 
coffee and eggs, and the company lived on 
the fat of the land; but all the time there 
were snipers across the stream, and civil- 
ians, as well as soldiers, were killed and 
wounded. They had their H.Q. in a house 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

in the village, very pleasant and comfort- 
able inside, but it was death to walk into 
the street by day. 

We, further back, were doing just ordin- 
ary trench work. Shells were plentiful, 
and every morning early we were gassed, 
chiefly with the sneezing variety, which 
was most unpleasant. Our little house 
had many narrow escapes from being hitj 
the people who relieved us abandoned it as 
unsafe, a shell having landed on the door- 

The Germans were in strength here, and 
commanded us with the high ground east 
of Solesmes, and their gunners gave us 
little peace. 

Before a further advance, it was neces- 
sary to arrange a big barrage, and also the 
stream required bridging. 

Several attempts were made to get a 
footing on the far side; the Coldstream and 
Scots Guards both sent companies across, 
but they got cut off, and were only extri- 
cated with the greatest difficulty. We had 
men across at one time, but later relied on 
patrols for keeping the far bank clear. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

On the 16th the 24th Division on our left 
attacked and temporarily captured the 
village of Haussy; they were forced back 
by a counter-attack later in the day. 

Meanwhile, the Guards' Division's at- 
tack was getting ready; it was to be carried 
out by the 1st and 3rd Guards' Brigades, 
and we were to be in reserve at St. Vaast. 
The object of the attack was to capture Sol- 
esmes and the high ground beyond. 

We were relieved by the 1st Battalion 
Scots Guards on the 17th, and returned to 
St. Vaast. 

St. Vaast got shelled a good deal, and it 
was no health resort at that time; however, 
we were comfortably billetted. 

On the 20th the attack took place, and 
was a complete success, and the 2nd 
Guards' Brigade was not called for. 

On the 22nd the 2nd Division relieved us, 
and so our fortnight's continuous fighting 
came to an end; it was perhaps the most 
strenuous and interesting time of the whole 
war. The battalion marched back to 
Boussieres to rest; on the way back, a few 
high shrapnel shells burst over us, and 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

they were the last shells I ever saw burst. 

On the 24th I went on leave, returning on 
November 7th, to be greeted at Boulogne 
with the news that the war was over; the 
town was much excited, but it turned out 
they were premature rejoicings, and the 
news was false. 

During my absence the battalion took 
part in its last battle, on November 4th, 
when they captured Preux au Sart after 
one of the stiffest and most difficult fights 
of the war. Campbell took in my com- 
pany, and most gallantly he led them; they 
suffered very heavy casualties, Campbell 
and Carstairs were wounded, and Gunther 
killed while attending to the latter J s 

Geoffrey Gunther was a great loss; he 
was a boy of exceptional promise and 
charm, and it was cruel luck his being 
killed in the last battle of the war. 

The battalion followed up their advance, 
and finally had the crowning success of 
taking Maubeuge, being the first troops 
into the town; they were received with un- 
bounded enthusiasm by the inhabitants. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

I rejoined the details at Carnieres, and 
remained there till the 12th, when we all 
went up to Maubeuge. We celebrated 
Armistice quietly at Carnieres; there was 
not much means of doing anything else. 
The massed drums of the Division played 
in the square, but that was about all that 




IT was difficult to realise that the war was 
over, and that after all one wasn't going to 
be killed as one had expected. And yet 
there wasn't really very much excitement 
among the troops; we had got so into the 
habit of taking everything for granted, and 
we took the end of the war as quietly as we 
had the beginning; in both instances we 
felt a sense of satisfaction. 

I rejoined the battalion on the 12th at 
Maubeuge; we were billeted right in the 
city, and quite well off there. I found my 
company much reduced in strength, and 
temporarily commanded by Eric Anson. 
On my return, he went back to No. 3, and 
I had Chetwynd Stapylton, who had just 
come out, and Clough Taylor under me. 

Maubeuge was pretty well intact, except 
for nearly all the bridges over the Sambre, 
which were destroyed. The inhabitants 
were most genial, and delighted at their 
changed circumstances. The Mayor, after 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

an impressive service in the Cathedral and 
a further ceremony in the Square, presen- 
ted the Major-General (Gen. Matheson) 
with a flag to commemorate the retaking 
of the city; the greatest enthusiasm pre- 

According to the Armistice terms we 
were to allow the enemy a week's start be- 
fore following him up, so we stayed at 
Maubeuge till the 18th, when we moved on 
to Rouveroy, thence next day at Mont St. 
Genevieve. We received a very cordial 
welcome at both these villages, which were 
decorated in oiir honour with flags and 
triumphal arches everywhere. But our 
greatest welcome was to be next day, the 
20th, when we entered Charleroi; perhaps 
the greatest pitch of enthusiasm was 
reached at Marchiennes au Pont, a suburb 
of Charleroi; here the crowds were particu- 
larly dense and enthusiastic; the town 
band of top-hatted citizens turned out to 
greet us. Charleroi was packed with 
people, crowds at every window, as well 
as in the streets., and it was a wonderful 
sight, and one never to be forgotten. 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

We had magnificent billets there, and 
the men were in the barracks; we only had 
three nights there. At night everyone was 
in the streets; dense crowds in the square 
listening to the Coldstream band playing; 
the whole town was lit up, and altogether 
gave itself up to rejoicing; we gave a dinner 
to the people who billeted us, at the best 
restaurant in the place, preceded by a 
small dance. 

On the 24th we left for Presles, on the 
25th for Lesves, where we stayed three 
nights, and thence on to Maillen, where we 
stayed a week. 

Our march was one long triumphal pro- 
gress, and was most interesting, and the 
country was charming. 

At Maillen we had to wait for our food 
supplies to catch us up. I paid a visit to 
Namur from there one day. Our next 
move was to Havelange on the 5th Decem- 
ber, Barvaux on the 6th, and Werbomont 
on the 7th. There we siayed three days, 
moving thence to Wanne, which was only 
a few miles from the frontier. Wild boar 
hunts used to be arranged during our halts, 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

and the boars killed made a welcome addi- 
tion to the men's daily stew. 

On the 12th the Great Day arrived, and 
we marched into Germany. It rained, of 
course, but that did not damp our ardour, 
and we marched into the enemy's country 
to the strains of the "British Grenadiers/' 
the Corps Commander (General Haldane) 
taking the salute on the border. 

The character of our march now 
changed; instead of the hilarious greetings 
we had had up to now, we were received 
in silence, but not indifference; crowds col- 
lected as before, but they just stared 
vacantly, except the children, who loved 
the drums and marched along beside them. 

Our first billet was at Deidenburg; the 
inhabitants were quite civil, and did not 
seem to mind us being there very much. 
On the 13th we left for Nidrum. 

Our destination was to be Diiren, and we 
were to march the whole way. But plans 
were suddenly altered, owing chiefly, I 
think, to the civil troubles in Cologne. 

Thus the 2nd Guards' Brigade were 
ordered on by train to Cologne on the 14th 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

(the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards rejoined 
us at Maubeuge, so we were a full brigade 
again). The remainder of the Division 
were to continue the journey by road, so 
we were in luck's way. 

We reached Cologne that evening about 
10 p.m., and marched triumphantly 
through the town to the Infantry Barracks 
at Riehl; the drums played appropriately 
"When we wind up the Watch on the 
Rhine 3 ' on our leaving the station; it 
pleased us very much, but I am afraid it 
was lost on the Germans. 




I DO not intend to write much about our 
life in Cologne ; it was very much like garri- 
son duty anywhere else. 

We were very comfortable; the civilians 
were civil, even cringing; we had no 
trouble from anyone; our methods were 
firm; salutes were required from anyone in 
uniform, and civilians, if spoken to, had to 
remove their hats. When we were on the 
march anyone failing to comply with these 
rules was immediately arrested and taken 
for a walk ; there was a pretty liberal inter- 
pretation of what a uniform was, and sev- 
eral inoffensive members of the Cologne 
Yachting Club were arrested, their peaked 
caps being sufficiently like uniform for us ! 
I remember one luckless postman in the 
act of delivering letters being marched off 
miles from his beat. We enjoyed the game 
immensely, and it showed the Germans we 
meant business. 

On the 16th I was in charge of a Guard 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

of Honour for the Command er-in-Chief; it 
was many a day since we had done any- 
thing of this sort, and I confess to having 
been very near a ceremonial disaster at one 
time ! 

Our daily work consisted of drill or a 
route march; the men had splendid bar- 
racks with a colossal square. They played 
a lot of football, and we did what we could 
to find amusements for them. In the town 
there was the Opera, various cabarets 
where one sat and drank light wine, and 
listened to a show, and later on English 
pierrot shows and pantomimes arrived. 

We were on guard three days out of 
every nine; there were various guards, on 
all the Headquarters and all the bridges. 
It took practically the whole battalion to 
find these, and it made a change from the 
usual routine. We used to go on guard as 
much like King's Guard as we could, and 
tried to impress the inhabitants; I don't 
know if we did, but there was always a 
crowd to watch guard mountings. 

We had quite a cheerful Christmas, and 
on the 28th demobilisation commenced; it 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

only reached a certain point, as we found 
we were getting too weak in numbers; but 
anyhow we said good-bye to a good many 
old trusted warriors. 

Patrick Ellison and Ivo Grenfell joined 
the company in Cologne, and later Martin; 
and Campbell returned, recovered from his 

On January 7th the Colours arrived from 
England, and were received with 'due cere- 
mony, reminding the Germans, as they 
said, of the days of their former greatness. 

Only twice was there any trouble; once 
when a strike threatened, and the other 
time during the elections; in neither case 
did anything occur. 

The weather was very cold for a spell in 
January and February, and skating be- 
came general. We had one man drowned 
trying to save a German who had fallen in; 
I think they were genuinely touched by 
this, and sent a representative to the 

In the middle of February the 4th Batta- 
lion was broken up, together with the 2nd 
Battalion Irish Guards, and the 4th Batta- 


Reminiscences of a Grenadier 

lion Coldstream; thus we received consid- 
erable reinforcement. 

It was said, more or less definitely, that 
we were to be out there a year or more. 
But this, too, was altered, and on the 27th 
February we left en route for England. 

Our joy was great. 

We stayed three nights at Dunkirk, sail- 
ing on March 4th for Tilbury, arriving next 
morning. So our long stay abroad had 
finished, and we were really home for 

It was raining when we got to London, 
but all the same we got the welcome home 
which we had looked forward to for years; 
and the band played ' ' See the Conquering 
Hero Comes " as we got out of the train; 
and with uncased Colours and fixed bayo- 
nets, we marched through the city to the 
Tower of London, which was to be our new 

And so the end came, and with it a feel- 
ing of intense thankfulness and relief. 



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The Adventures - 

- of a Naval Officer. 




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Formerly H.M.'s Acting Commissioner in Borneo ; and subsequently H.M.'s 
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Author of " The Adventures of a Naval Officer." 

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